UPDATE: Fortunately this bill was killed in Committee Wednesday. Still, that it had support at all should be an embarrassment to all Republicans wherever they live. (h/t to Laura Clawson)
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It's difficult to understand why even Republicans would be in favor of laws that make it harder for police to arrest men who beat up their wives, girlfriends or other women, but apparently that is the case in New Hampshire where Republican legislators want to turn back the clock to make it impossible for police to arrest men at the scene of a domestic abuse even if their is probable cause that the man living there brutalized the woman he is living with, unless the officer actually witnessed the victim being battered. Instead the officer would have to leave the scene to get an arrest warrant leaving the battered woman alone with the man (husband, domestic partner, family member or stranger) who beat the crap out of her. They also want to pass a law to make it harder for female victims to enforce protection orders against their assailants. Sounds like something out of a Twilight Zone episode, but its all perfectly true.
Under current law the presumption is that an arrest will be made when police observe evidence of abuse. They have a large degree of discretion and don’t need to witness the assault firsthand or obtain a legal warrant before they can separate the alleged attacker from his victim.
All that will change if Republicans get their way. The state’s GOP legislators are pushing two bills that will reverse a half century of progress ...
Well, for some reason Republicans in New Hampshire think laws that protect battered women more than the men who beat them is unfair. Instead of protecting victims of abuse they want to turn back the clock to the days when women were routinely beaten by their husbands, fathers, boyfriends, etc.
House Bill 1581 would turn the clock back 40 years to an age when a police officer could not make an arrest in a domestic violence case without first getting a warrant unless he or she actually witnessed the crime. That's an exceedingly dangerous change. Consider the following scenario, one outlined for lawmakers by retired Henniker police chief Tim Russell:
An officer is called to a home where she sees clear evidence that an assault has occurred. The furniture is overturned, the children are sobbing, and the face of the woman of the house is bruised and bleeding. It's obvious who the assailant was, but the officer arrived after the assault occurred. It's a small department, and no one else on the force is available to keep the peace until the officer finds a judge or justice of the peace to issue a warrant. The officer leaves, and the abuser renews his attack with even more ferocity, punishing his victim for having called for help. [...]
It's impossible to say how many lives the policy, in place since the 1970s, has saved or how many injuries it's prevented. If they adopt House Bill 1581, lawmakers might find out, but the price paid could be extraordinarily high.
House Bill 1608 would also almost certainly cost lives. It removes judicial discretion by severely restricting when someone who has violated a domestic violence protective order can be arrested to three offenses: committing an act of abuse or an offense against the person named in the protective order, or engaging in prohibited contact.
The bill would also, law enforcement believes, remove a judge's ability to order a defendant in a domestic violence case to relinquish weapons or prevent him or her from purchasing a gun. It would also eliminate law enforcement's ability to arrest a defendant who threatens to use physical force against a victim or her children. All are changes that could have deadly consequences and make life more frightening for abuse victims and their families.
I didn't know the Pro-Domestic Violence Lobby had such sway with Republican politicians. In fact, I never knew Wife Beaters and other abusers had a lobby, period. But they must in New Hampshire. How else to explain the support for these bills by Republican legislators there, some of whom must have wives, daughters and granddaughters who would be placed at risk should these bills ever be passed into law? It boggles my mind, but then, everything Republicans advocate these days boggles my mind.
Maybe we should ask Newt the Gingrich what he thinks about this. He is after all, a man who is an expert on emotionally abusing women when they are at their most vulnerable. Or Rick Santorum, who would like nothing better than to see male/female relations revert back to Biblical times when female adulterers could be stoned for their transgressions, real or imagined. I'd love to hear the reaction of a GOP debate crowd to a question regarding these proposed bills, wouldn't you?