MANCHESTER, N.H. – On Wednesday, a panel of city officials gathered on Facebook Live to take questions about the state of policing in Manchester.
Hosted by Manchester NAACP President James McKim, the discussion included Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, Manchester Police Department Chief Carlo Capano and Manchester Police Commission Member Manny Content in a discussion amidst the backdrop of ongoing calls for police reform across the country as well as the approval of last week’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget for the city.
That budget allocates $27 million for the Police Department, including ten new police officers which will be assigned into community policing roles. According to Craig and Capano, community policing officers are tasked with establishing relationships within particular neighborhoods in the city, allowing a proactive approached used in tandom with patrol officers dispatched to emergencies.
Craig and Capano disagreed with defunding police as an appropriate step for Manchester, with Capano noting that funding would come from training programs that help prevent many of the issues that have given rise to the police defunding movement.
Craig added that discussion is appropriate, but Manchester has already established many of the policies demanded by activists, ranging from body cameras for all officers to bans on chokeholds.
In regard to other cities facing issues with their police departments, Capano believes CALEA accreditation is a key step. Manchester is one of 12 municipal law enforcement agencies in the state of New Hampshire accredited by CALEA, obtained through rigorous compliance and training procedures.
Craig noted that only about five percent of the approximately 18,000 law enforcement agencies across the country are currently CALEA accredited.
Content believes that Capano has worked hard to hold officers accountable, something he says is not universal across the country.
He also talked about changes he’s seen since moving to Manchester in the 60s, including an incident where police almost shot him for going into a convenience store with a gym bag after playing football.
For Content, he believes the department isn’t perfect yet. However, he says progress has been made, especially in terms of diversity within the department, and continued improvement requires the entire community.
“Back then, you weren’t given a doubt at all. It’s not like today when there’s community-focused police,” he said. “There’s some bad apples on both sides, there’s some good apples on both sides. I’m not naïve about that. But back then, it was a different time.”