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PVD Mayor’s African American Ambassadors Group supports full repeal of LEOBoR

“Anything short of a full repeal is unacceptable. The time is now for a full repeal, explicitly replacing it with the same protections and procedures applied to all city / state public servants.”

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The Policing subgroup of Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza‘s African American Ambassadors Group (AAAG) has will be coming out in support of the full repeal of the Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights (LEOBoR) at a press conference / rally on 11am Thursday, May 6, 2021, outside the Providence Public Safety Complex.

From the press release:

“Police use of force disproportionately targets African Americans. Police departments lacks transparency and submit inconsistent police reports. The Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights gives special rights to police officers beyond the constitution.

“In Rhode Island. We have police misconduct that is shielded from accountability by LEOBoR:

  • Rishod Gore was kicked and had his face crushed into concrete by Sergeant Joseph Hanley, a 17-year veteran of the force who was charged and found guilty of simple assault. The police department’s inability to immediately remove this criminal without pay is a direct consequence of LEOBoR;
  • Michael Clark, a former police recruit, sued Providence police alleging humiliation and racial discrimination – case pending;
  • Providence Firefighter Terrell Paci says he was racially profiled when two police officers drew their guns on him. Body cameras are not used in uniform compliance and the situation is so challenging that the ACLU wrote a letter on January 15 to both the Chief of Police and the Commissioner imploring stronger compliance.
  • A 2017 police chase resulted in the death of an innocent man, Joseph Santos, and serious injury to his passenger. They shot the wrong people.
  • Germain Bruce was helping a friend start her car when police arrived and he was arrested for disorderly conduct.

“The list goes on and on. The time for transparency in policing is now and repeal of LEOBoR is the first step. 32 States have no Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights. In New England, Rhode Island is the only state with LEOBoR.

  • Under LEOBoR an officer can only be suspended for two days. Repeal gives police officers the same protections as every other state/city public servant.
  • Under LEOBoR the discipline hearing panel consists of three people, one is chosen by the police chief, one by the officer accused, and one “neutral” chosen with the agreement of the two other arbitrators. Repeal would allow the police chief to determine appropriate action, restoring accountability for misconduct to the police department.
  • Under LEOBoR, Police Chiefs and Political leaders are prohibited from talking about the discipline officers may or may not receive. Repeal has no limitations on statements, the same standards as every other state/city public servant.

“Rhode Island State Senator Tiara Mack (Democrat, District 6, Providence) is the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 0773 to repeal LEOBoR. It is co-sponsored by Senators Samuel Bell (Democrat, District 5, Providence) and Jonathan Acosta (Democrat, District 16, Central Falls).

“LEOBoR gives special rights to police officers that ordinary people do not get, and prevents communities from investigating misconduct that could lead to disciplining officers who have engaged in misconduct. As a result, only a very small percentage of complaints actually result in discipline. It doesn’t have to be this way. Rhode Island is in the minority as a state that still has this regressive law and the only New England state to have LEOBoR.

“Anything short of a full repeal is unacceptable. The time is now for a full repeal, explicitly replacing it with the same protections and procedures applied to all city / state public servants.”

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Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.

atomicsteve@gmail.com