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.
January 28, 2012 at 1:27 am
A friend posted an severely slanted article on Facebook and added disparaging comments about Republicans. I, too, searched since there had to be other reasons for the bill other than Republicans wanting to facilitate domestic violence, but was hard-pressed to find a balanced presentation of the story. I did find this brief blog in support of the bill: http://www.topix.com/forum/state/nh/TP1MTLPSF74OTVNH3
You and I probably disagree politically, but it’s encouraging to find someone, like myself, who is sincerely “interested about the motivations and beliefs of those with whom I tend to disagree”. Perhaps there’s still hope for our country even in this polarizing environment – thank you!
January 28, 2012 at 2:33 pm
That blog post does make an interesting point. If indeed just being arrested in a domestic dispute gets you listed as a criminal, even if there is no conviction, then I can see a basis for concern here. That said, the blog made it sound like it was something in the MA state constitution which allowed arrests without convictions to somehow be considered a criminal offense. Unless the NH constitution has that same provision, I’m not sure the bill would be necessary. Now I’m curious if the NH constitution does allow for that. Even then I would sooner support legislation (or constitutional amendment) to change the underlying problem, rather than potentially put more people at risk of domestic abuse. But this does shed some light on a motivation behind the bill besides the ridiculous idea that the sponsor somehow wanted to promote domestic violence.
And I’m glad that you feel the same way about trying to understand where others are coming from in their actions and beliefs. It seems like that’s the only way to have effective government, or to achieve reasonable compromises in any area of life. It makes me wish that all public servants had to take some oath obligating them to be civil, reasonable, and to treat others with the same respect and courtesy that they’d like for themselves. Listening to politicians speak drives me crazy, whether or not I agree with them on any particular issue. I know that you and I are not the only ones who feel this way, but it can feel like that a lot of the time, probably because being civil and reasonable and respectful doesn’t make headlines or turn into nice sound bites.