Immigrant Rights Activist Tells Panel She Works As Bridge To Police

Print More

Eva Castillo-Turgeon is pictured in 2017 in this file AFSC photo. receiving


– A commission looking at improving police accountability across the state heard from an immigrant rights activist in Manchester Wednesday who said she often finds herself serving as a bridge between the people and police.

Eva Castillo-Turgeon, a member of the Manchester Police Commission, said she was not speaking as a member of that body but as an individual.

Castillo-Turgeon said she was totally biased against the police when she came to Manchester. She said over time she learned to see the police as human beings and ever since then “I have become like a bridge between the community and police.”

Castillo-Turgeon said she is a rebel, an activist and is loud “but with age, you learn you will never come together in the middle of the room until you find things you can agree on and build on that…nothing is going to happen overnight.”

Change, she said, “happens slooooowly.”

She said as long as people have a deep distrust in police, nothing will get done. It is likely going to take a generation before people get comfortable with police and she noted police should focus on developing a positive youth interaction.
Castillo-Turgeon told a story about getting a police officer to come to celebrate a kid’s birthday.

“He was so excited,” she said.

Fostering positive interactions like that are key, Castillo-Turgeon said, to improve the relationship people have with uniformed officers. She said “while we need definitely to train people…training is not going to do much,” she said without community interaction.

“We need to do more community building,” Castillo-Turgeon told the state Commission on Law Enforcement Accountability, Community and Transparency. That commission, known as LEACT, is charged with providing a report to Gov. Chris Sununu by the end of the month on measures that can be taken to improve law enforcement training, relations and accountability.

Sununu created the commission following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police and public outrage over racial injustice which prompted demonstrations in New Hampshire and around the world.

“The people who are afraid of police call me when they need to report a crime and ask me to bring one of ‘my police'” to help, Castillo-Turgeon said.

She was asked by members of the LEACT commission if the state could find money to hire “go-betweens” like her, would that help bridge those gaps with minorities? She said she would do it for free but she thought the right people could be found to make a difference.

“Anything I can do to contribute my big mouth,” she said. “I am fighting for my community and to make New Hampshire a better place.”
A copy of her written testimony is here
She said while she does not like being stereotyped as an immigrant, she does not like people stereotyping police either.

Nashua Success

The commission also heard from a Nashua police lieutenant about the positive work the department is doing in interacting with minority youths to ensure they stay out of the criminal justice system.
Some of that work is considered a national model.

“All kids are kids and if we can, give kids the benefit of the doubt,” said Nashua Police Lt. Carlos Camacho.
“We were all kids once,” he said. “I was given breaks when I was growing up,” he said, adding he grew up in Texas, and that break given to him by an officer allowed him to develop a respect for law enforcement, a profession he chose.

Camacho said he works a lot with the State Advisory Group or SAG on police-youth issues. The SAG is within the national Coalition for Juvenile Justice
He outlined the Nashua department’s Mirror Project which is all about mutual “communication and respect.”
It could be replicated in other parts of the state, he said, and has been getting national attention by other law enforcement agencies.

The project allows youths to sit down and allow them to ask questions “about anything.” He said the police try to reach the youths where they are, be that at youth centers, parks, and on the streets.

Nashua is a refugee resettlement community and many youths have previously had a bad relationship with law enforcement. He said the department also engages in roundtable discussions on issues related to driving, drinking, substance abuse, and crimes.

Camacho said implicit bias training is important and a cornerstone of police training.
He provided state demographic data to LEACT. It shows that in the year 2000, 95.8 percent of the state was white, 93 percent in 2008, and in 2018 the last year reported 91 percent.

But the number of individuals of color in the state prison system would suggest that people of color are arrested more often than white individuals.
He said race and income disparity are factors impacting youths in entering the criminal justice system, whether someone lives in a city or a rural area.
Camacho was asked by a commission member what he meant when he talked about the “police culture.”
He said the youth culture has its own identity with the way they communicate, dress, and interact.
“At the same time, we (police) talk in code. What we wear. We all wear the same uniform. Trying to get that across that everybody has a culture,” is an important approach to take with youths.

Camacho was also asked about juvenile detention centers. New Hampshire has fewer youths in such detention centers than the national average but more needs to be done to make that number zero, he said.

Going to the Sununu Youth Services Center in Manchester, a youth detention facility, he said there are 20 or fewer youths and police in other parts of the country can’t believe there are so few.  He acknowledged there are a lot of minorities there.

“You do see the disparities there,” Camacho said. “There is still a lot of work that needs to be done.”

He acknowledged there are more minority youths arrested than whites but “we are going to do our best to get them out of the system. They are arrested more, the numbers show it,” Camacho said.

Camacho addressed the issue of school resource officers and whether the money would be better spent on projects like the Mirror Program.
Camacho said police officers are needed in schools but it is incredibly important to have “the right police officer” there.

The LEACT Commission will meet virtually on Friday at 9 a.m. to hear more testimony and plans to meet three times next week, beginning Tuesday at 1 p.m., Wednesday at 9 a.m. and Friday at 9 a.m.
Sununu gave the commission 45 days to do its work and the deadline is July 31.

With lots more work to be done and the deadline looming, Sununu said last week that he would ask for at least a preliminary report by the end of the month with proposed recommendations for change.

The commission agreed to complete a report to him on police training by July 31 and then voted to ask the governor for a 60-day extension on the rest of its work.

For more information visit

Public Testimony

Comments are closed.