The Bulletin Board

House committee to vote on requiring law enforcement to collect data on race

By: - October 20, 2021 9:30 am

Retired Dover police chief Charles Reynolds (with back to the camera) testifies before members of a subcommittee of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. From left are Reps. Gary Hopper, Dick Marston, and Linda Harriott-Gathright. (Amanda Gokee | New Hampshire Bulletin)

On Wednesday, the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee will vote on a proposal that would require law enforcement to collect and analyze data related to race. The legislation, which was retained in committee last session, was a recommendation that came out of the Commission on Law Enforcement Accountability, Community, and Transparency (LEACT).

In a subcommittee work session on House Bill 620, the three members who were present did not agree on which recommendation they would bring before the full committee for a vote. The chair of the subcommittee, Rep. Linda Harriott-Gathright, a Nashua Democrat, was in favor of an “ought to pass” recommendation, but Rep. Dick Marston, a Manchester Republican, wanted to put forward an “inexpedient to legislate” recommendation. Because of the impasse, the subcommittee decided it would bring the bill forward for Wednesday’s vote without a recommendation.

The proposal includes a measure to list race and ethnicity on state IDs – something Harriott-Gathright, who is Black, said she personally opposed, although she supports the legislation.

“My reason is that many years ago if you looked like me, you could not travel unless you had a card from your master. You’re sending me back many years on a personal note. That’s my personal testimony against the license,” she said, adding that it could be optional to include race or ethnicity data.

Charles Reynolds, who has served as the chief of police of Dover, testified to the committee on the complexity of the kind of data collection contemplated in the legislation. He said officers shouldn’t have to ask the person they’ve stopped about race, and that the statewide data should be analyzed using a standardized method.

Reynolds said the policing environment in New Hampshire is different than other states, like Minnesota, in reference to police brutality and the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. “In New Hampshire, we have to remember, it didn’t happen here,” he said. “I don’t think we should spend a lot of time living vicariously or thinking we’re living in that policing environment. We’re not.”

Harriott-Gathright pushed back, saying, “Without a doubt there’s issues in New Hampshire.”

A Senate committee that was formed to study the inclusion of race and ethnicity information on state IDs did not have enough members present to hold its first meeting on Tuesday. The study committee will meet next week, ahead of a Nov. 1 deadline to submit a report.

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Amanda Gokee
Amanda Gokee

Amanda Gokee is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s energy and environment reporter. She previously reported on these issues at VTDigger. Amanda grew up in Vermont and is a graduate of Harvard University. She received her master’s degree in liberal studies, with a concentration in creative writing, from Dartmouth College. Her work has also appeared in the LA Review of Books and the Valley News.