CONCORD — By the narrowest of margins, the New Hampshire House of Representatives passed legislation to outlaw the practice of employing racial profiling in arrests along with sentencing practices.
Advocates said New Hampshire should join the 30 states that have their own laws that do not permit race to be a factor such as when police execute a traffic stop.
State Rep. Charlotte DiLorenzo, D-Newmarket, who is Black, spoke of her own uncomfortable experience a few years ago when she said a Stratham police officer pulled her over.
“I didn’t ask why I was being stopped; I think I was kind of shocked,” DiLorenzo recalled.
A short time later the officer told her police were looking for a red Chrysler PT Cruiser; DiLorenzo said she had been driving a red Toyota Prius.
“No one would confuse a PT Cruiser with a Prius,” DiLorenzo said.
The 186-185 vote (HB 596) sends the bill to the state Senate for review.
Supporters failed to limit the bill’s scope, a move they had tried in order to improve the chances the bill in some form would pass.
Rep. David Meuse, D-Portsmouth, had asked the House to strike all references to outlawing racial profiling in the sentencing of offenders to state or county jails.
The House voted 186-178 to reject that change and then passed it as originally proposed.
Motorcyclist profiling outlawed
Rep. Linda Harriott-Gathright, D-Nashua, said the bill still permits police to collect racial data for the purposes of crime reports and other analysis.
She noted Speaker Sherman Packard, R-Londonderry, co-authored a law in 2022 that outlawed police profiling motorcyclists.
“New Hampshire has a ‘motorcycle profiling’ law and yet no statute protecting people of color from unwarranted traffic stops,” said Harriott-Gathright, who is Black. “I am pleased to see our state take a step closer to prohibiting this kind of behavior today.”
Rep. Joseph Stone, R-Claremont, said racial profiling was already against federal law, making this bill unnecessary.
“This legislation leads to allegations of racial profiling against officers based only on statistics,” Stone said.
Rep. Terry Roy, R-Deerfield, said the bill also sends the wrong message.
“By passing this law we are saying to all the men and women in law enforcement, ‘We don’t trust you and believe you are engaging in racial profiling,’” Roy said.
Supporters noted following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Gov. Chris Sununu formed a law enforcement accountability commission that recommended all law enforcement receive training on how to avoid racial profiling and to collect data on the topic.
“I also know that we owe every single citizens in this state the same safety in a traffic stop and the same confidence in a traffic stop that I experience as an old white woman every time my toe gets a little heavy on the accelerator,” added Rep. Lucy Weber, D-Walpole.