Calling the police not safe for all Granite Staters

Granite State News Collaborative
Published: 7/16/2020 11:19:31 AM

Eva Castillo regularly takes calls from local immigrants requesting that she call the police for them.

Castillo, herself an immigrant from Venezuela, has been working for years to improve the relationship between New Hampshire’s immigrant population and the police, but many, including herself, still fear law enforcement.

“When I’m on the highway, I think I’m going to be profiled. I still feel that fear, which is totally ridiculous, but I’ve learned to accept that,” Castillo said.

Castillo has worked with Nashua and Manchester police departments to implement policies against asking for immigration status upon traffic stops or arrests, but those policies vary widely across New Hampshire communities. Many immigrants fear that they could be profiled and asked for immigration status upon calls to the police for help or routine stops, actions that could lead to detainment and deportation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Many immigrants who come from Central and South America have experienced trauma with police from their own countries, which may make them less keen on interacting with law enforcement, Castillo said.

“Immigrants, for the most part, come from places where the police are crooked, are bad, are rapists, are criminals, everything you can think of,” she said.

Samantha Searles, Black Lives Matter Nashua’s communications director, approached police in her hometown of Merrimack to discuss organizing a peaceful Black Lives Matter vigil last month.

“It’s a business meeting we scheduled in advance, I’m dressed professionally, everyone has their masks on, we’re sitting six feet apart, just talking about logistics. They’re actively working to help me and I’m still nervous,” Searles said.

The experience with Merrimack police brought forward memories of a police encounter in another town when she was 18 years old. Searles said she was pulling over into Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot to finish talking to her mom on the phone. An officer saw her swerve as she tried to pull over to the side of the road and decide instead to head to the parking lot.

“He saw me and turned the lights on. It was raining. I couldn’t see him waving at me, so the second I rolled my window down and say, ‘Is there a problem?’ he just starts screaming. I mean, I couldn’t see him,” Searles said. “I tried to explain that I couldn’t see him, that I was hands free for like 99.9 percent of the time and everything, and I recognized that I did have the phone in my hand and that’s not a good thing. At the same time, in a lot of these cases, the response from law enforcement is not warranted to that extent. I had nothing on my record, not even a speeding ticket.”

Searles said she twice rolled up her window when she believed the encounter was over, each time the officer banging on her window to continue talking to her, saying he would arrest her if she rolled up the window again. She was given a ticket, which she was later able to appeal.

“I’m alive. So it’s a lot better than Sandra Bland or anyone else, but it could have escalated that high easily.”

Searles and Castillo want to see a more trusting relationship develop between people of color and law enforcement and have been working toward more community dialogues. Stronger implicit bias and diversity training for officers is also an important step, they said.

Castillo herself sits on Manchester’s police commission and believes that local immigrants should trust the police, but that further dialogue is needed.

“I think the will is there, and we just need to keep trying to build relationships. I don’t want an unsafe community. I’m an immigrant myself, I don’t want my people subject to abuse, but at the same time I want people to build relationships with the police,” she said.

Laconia, New Hampshire’s police take a community-based approach and have regular dialogues and events with community members to gain feedback and help build trust, said Mathew Canfield, Laconia’s chief of police.

Canfield said the department’s human relations committee was established to address the concerns or fear the city’s residents, particularly its immigrants and refugees, may have regarding law enforcement.

“I want to meet them so they know that we’re not the same as the countries that they come from, and we don’t police the same way,” Canfield said. “It’s all about rapport and making them feel comfortable in the community.”

Also beneficial to Laconia’s policing system is its national Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies accreditation, Canfield said. Agencies must abide by 460 national standards to gain such an accreditation, many of which address bias and use of force.

“Part of that is the philosophy of community policing. Reducing crime is not all about giving out tickets and making arrests. We’ve seen that time and time again,” Canfield said.

Across the country, activists have been examining alternatives to policing as protests against police brutality toward Black people continue. Some activists say calling 911 or police should be a last resort to avoid the potential of violence and brutality. Some communities, including Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed, have moved toward disbanding or defunding their police departments. Other communities have created their own alternatives, like CAHOOTS in Eugene, Oregon, or the Safe Outside the System (SOS) Collective based in Brooklyn, New York.

But even in New Hampshire, law enforcement is not the only available option for someone who is in a crisis or needs help.

“I think that it sometimes seems like there’s not real familiarity with what resources are available, and that leads people to call the resources that they know about,” said Jennifer Mulryan, director of psychiatric emergency services at Riverbend Community Mental Health in Concord.

Riverbend is one of three community mental health centers in the state with a mobile crisis response team, which can respond to anyone experiencing a crisis wherever they are in the community and help them find resources and navigate next steps. All of New Hampshire’s community mental health services are confidential under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

“We’re here as a support net for folks. I think sometimes depending on why they have negative thoughts and feelings toward law enforcement, for some people that can be really ingrained and requires long-term work. But we try to be transparent about the work that we do, and why we have security here,” she said.

Resources for those experiencing mental health crises, looking for substance use treatment, experiencing domestic violence or looking for immigration assistance exist throughout the state. Below is a list of those resources. Many of these services may also redirect you to local community resources.

Members of the below organizations also clarified that they may call emergency responders if a caller seems to be in immediate danger of hurting themselves or others. Many are also mandated reporters, which means they must report any disclosure of child or elder abuse. Those experiencing an overdose should dial 911. Those who report drug overdoses are granted immunity under the law.

New Hampshire Non-Police Resources


New Hampshire’s 211 number is staffed 24/7 by referral specialists who can help anyone in the state navigate a variety of community resources and information, from mental health and addiction treatment centers to resources regarding COVID-19. The 211 team also works directly with The Doorway, which has numerous locations in the state to help those who need it access treatment. Callers do not have to offer any identifying information or details that they are not comfortable giving. Translation services are also available. 211 is not an emergency response service.

Mental Health

New Hampshire’s community mental health centers serve 10 regions across the state and provide emergency services, assessment, individual and group therapy, case management, rehabilitation services, psychiatric services, and community disaster mental health support to people of all ages. Each region offers emergency services to anyone who is at risk of harm to themselves or others; these services are available 24/7 by phone or in person during office business hours. Phone calls and visits are confidential under HIPAA privacy laws unless child or elder abuse is disclosed.

Northern Human Services, Conway | General inquiries: (603) 447-3347 | Emergency numbers vary by region. Click here for appropriate emergency contact.

West Central Behavioral Health | General inquiries: (603) 448-0126 | Emergency services: (800) 564-2578

Lakes Region Mental Health Center | General inquiries and emergency services: (603) 524-1100

Riverbend Community Mental Health, Concord | General inquiries: (603) 228-1551 | Emergency services: (844) 743-5748 or (844-7-HELP 4 U)

Monadnock Family Services | General inquiries: (603) 357-4400 | Emergency services: (603) 357-5270 | After hours: (603) 357-4400

Greater Nashua Mental Health | General inquiries: (603) 889-6147 | Emergency services: (800) 762-8191

Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester | General inquiries and emergency services: (603) 668-4111

Seacoast Mental Health Center | General inquiries: (603) 431-6703 | Emergency services: Exeter: (603) 772-2710 Portsmouth: (603) 431-6703

Community Partners of Strafford County | General inquiries and emergency services: (603) 516-9300

Center for Life Management | General inquiries and emergency services: (603) 516-9300

Headrest NH

24/7 suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Headrest is New Hampshire’s 24-hour confidential suicide hotline, available for those who are in emotional distress or may feel at risk of suicide. Callers are connected with trained counselors who can provide immediate assistance, referrals and support services or emergency intervention.

24/7 crisis hotline: 603-448-4400

Headrest’s 24-hour confidential crisis hotline is staffed by trained professionals who can help guide callers through their next steps and redirect them to other resources and options. Counselors can also provide referrals to support groups, clinicians, mental health services and other community resources.

Both Headrest hotlines are confidential unless the caller is an immediate threat or danger to themselves or others. Headrest staff are mandated reporters and must report disclosed instances of child or elder abuse. Callers are not obligated to give any identifying information.

NAMI NH | 1-800-242-6264

The National Alliance on Mental Illness’ New Hampshire branch is a grassroots advocacy organization working to support, educate and advocate for people in the state who are impacted by mental illness. The above phone number is a confidential information and resource line staffed Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Staff members can help connect callers with local and national resources as well as offer support and information about NAMI programming. Staff will return messages within 48 hours.

Note: the NAMI resource line is not a hotline or emergency service, but is for those who are impacted by mental illness and are seeking help and resources.

Mobile Crisis Response

New Hampshire has three mobile crisis response teams across the state that can answer mental health crisis calls in person within their respective communities 24/7. Each team operates out of their respective community mental health center and can help direct callers to mental health resources.

Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester mobile crisis response team: (800) 688-3544

Harbor Homes mobile crisis response team - Nashua: (603) 816-1010

Riverbend Community Mental Health mobile crisis response - Concord: (844) 743-5748 or (844-7-HELP 4 U)

Rape and Domestic Violence Services

New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (NHCADSV)

NHCADSV oversees all 13 sexual assault and domestic violence crisis centers across the state of New Hampshire. Each program provides 24/7 confidential advocacy services and support to survivors of interpersonal violence and their allies. Confidential advocates can also accompany survivors to police departments, judicial hearings, and help them navigate the legal system if desired. Chat and text services are also available through most support centers.

NHCADSV staff are mandated reporters and must report disclosed instances of child or elder abuse. Callers are not obligated to give any identifying information.

24-Hour Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-866-644-3574

24-Hour Statewide Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-277-5570

Non-Emergency Immigrant Support Services

New Hampshire Solidarity Network | (603) 668-8250 |

27 Lowell St., 3rd floor, Manchester, NH 03104

The New Hampshire Solidarity Network, based in Manchester, is an advocacy organization that provides support services to immigrants who have been impacted by immigration enforcement. The organization can accompany immigrants as they report to ICE and organize community prayer vigils for families. The network can also provide housing for those who are seeking sanctuary or asylum, as well as food, childcare supplies and rent money for those who are undocumented and unemployed as a result of COVID-19.

Centro Latino de Hospitalidad | (603) 668-8250 |

383 Beech St. Manchester, NH 03103

A community based project of the Granite State Organizing Project and the St. Anne - St. Augustine Parish in Manchester, Centro Latino offers bilingual immigrant support and referral services, including help navigating housing and employment laws two days per week. Immigration attorneys are available monthly to offer services free of charge.

LGBTQ+ Resources

GLAD Answers New England | (800) 455-GLAD

GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) offers free and confidential legal information, assistance and referrals for LGBTQ+ people. GLAD can answer questions about changing gender identifiers or names on IDs, social security benefits, HIV rights and other LGBTQ+ rights questions. Callers can reach someone by phone Monday through Friday 1:30p.m. to 4:30p.m. or leave a message, but GLAD recommends sending an email for a faster response.

PFLAG New Hampshire | Dial 211 and ask for PFLAG-NH

If you know of additional resources to add to this list, please send information to the Granite State News Collaborative via the submission form at


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, your source for Peterborough area news.

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

20 Grove St.
Peterborough, NH 03458


© 2020 Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy