STATE HOUSE – Sen. Harold M. Metts has announced he plans to
work on legislation to overhaul the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.
The Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, adopted in
Rhode Island in 1976, protects officers accused of misconduct, preventing them
from being immediately fired or put on leave without pay, and allowing their
continued employment to be decided by a panel of other police officers. The law
has been widely criticized by many who believe it prevents justice from being
served when officers are abusive.
Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence) said he plans to meet
with stakeholders and consider their suggestions to shape a proposal to reform
“Due process is one thing, however, it should not take video
footage months later to expose brutality and murder. The law should not be
for a special process of discipline that results in hiding crime and protecting
wrongdoers that ultimately also taints the image of good officers,” said
Senator Metts. “The Bill of Rights for our citizens is paramount. The Law
Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights must compliment and not undermine this.”
The senator said he is hopeful that worldwide protests that
erupted following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police — including
one that drew an estimated crowd of 10,000 to the Rhode Island State House
Friday — indicate that public pressure might finally achieve reform of the law,
which has been stymied in the past.
“The struggle for justice here is universal. And the protest
for justice is universal. The protestors, especially the youth, are people from
all backgrounds, all colors. The mix of people who are standing up for justice
and equality today is not only heartwarming, but will lead to positive change,
and will lead to the healing that our country needs,” he said.
He said he is also optimistic that leaders are listening to
the protesters, in particular that Gov. Gina M. Raimondo has met with the
leaders of Black Lives Matter in Rhode Island.