This afternoon I saw the following article posted on Facebook: New Hampshire Republicans Propose Bills That Prevent Police From Protecting Domestic Abuse Victims
This prompted me to share the article on my wall along with a novel-length block of text. I then realized this was more appropriate for a blog post, so I’m cutting and pasting it here:
Given the anti-Republican source of this article, I tried to do additional research on this. I couldn’t find any other media coverage on it, but I did find the text of the bills themselves. I’m mainly curious how the bill sponsors are explaining the necessity for these changes. It’s all well and good to demonize the Republican party (I know I’ve been guilty of this myself in the past), but generally there is a rationale behind any proposed legislation, even if it’s one with which I disagree.
In the case of HB 1608, it’s a moot point now, since I did find a news report that it never made it out of committee after the bill’s sponsor refused to show up for two consecutive hearings on it. But it sounds like the first bill, HB 1581, may still be considered this session.
The only justification for HB 1581 that I could find was in a statement of intent within the bill itself, which said “This legislation supports Part First, Article 19 of the New Hampshire Constitution, the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution for the United States, and article V of the New Hampshire Republican Party Platform.”
I presume they are invoking the US 4th amendment’s protection against warrantless or non-judicially-sanctioned arrests. The part of the NH constitution which is mentioned covers much the same ground. Article 5 of the NH GOP party platform is pretty vague, and covers things ranging from separation of powers, states’ rights, English as an official language, and preserving individual liberty.
So, based on all of that, the best I can tell is that this bill was proposed on the grounds that if a police officer arrests someone for an act that they did not directly witness, then this is an infringement of the rights of the person being arrested. With no additional context, I can understand that point. Certainly I in general oppose expanding the powers of the police and of the government, and am a strong supporter of individual rights and liberties. And the laws being changed do address more than just possible domestic abuse cases. However, some sections of these laws are clearly narrowly focused just on domestic abuse, and these sections are being changed along with the others. Given what we know about domestic abuse and the psychological power an abuser can have over his or her victim, I think this is a situation where it is understandable for a police officer to make an arrest based on probable cause, even if they did not witness the victim being beaten.
Anyway, I’m just curious if anyone has any better information on how HB 1581 was justified. I’m guessing it will meet a similar fate to HB 1608, but I’m still interested. In general I am very interested about the motivations and beliefs of those with whom I tend to disagree.
In case it’s not clear, I think most people, regardless of political affiliation, are trying to do what they believe to be the right thing. Well, maybe with a healthy dollop of self-interest thrown in there. But I don’t think many people are motivated by a desire to cause harm or do evil. I wish all politicians would accept this as a given and stop trying to demonize anyone who disagrees with them, declaring them to be evil, greedy, unpatriotic, unAmerican, etc. It doesn’t help us move forward.