STATE HOUSE – A special legislative task force will review
and provide recommendations on policies pertaining to the Rhode Island Law
Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, under legislation sponsored by Sen.
Harold M. Metts and approved by the Senate today.
The task force is to comprehensively study and provide
recommendations on the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR),
to ensure accountability and protection against misconduct. Adopted in Rhode
Island in 1976, the LEOBOR 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.
“Public safety officers are to protect public safety, and
there should not be ways to prevent those who pervert justice from being held
accountable,” said Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence). “The black, brown and
southeast Asian communities have long called for genuine reform of this law to
protect our safety. While it shouldn’t take widely distributed videos of police
brutality and murder, as well as worldwide protests, to finally bring about
change, I’m hopeful that our call is finally too great to ignore.”
The resolution calls for the task force to study protection
of the rights of residents, conduct and accountability responsibilities, police
relations with racial and ethnic minority communities, police management,
disciplinary procedures, enhanced training for cultural competency and mental
health, and diversity in all law enforcement agencies.
The 13-member task force is to include three senators,
Attorney General Peter F. Neronha (who plans to serve in person rather than
send a designee), the superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police or a
designee, a police chief of a Rhode Island law enforcement agency, the executive
director of the Rhode Island Human Rights Commission or a designee, the
president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
(NAACP) Providence Branch or a designee, the President of the Rhode Island
AFL-CIO or a designee, the executive director of the Latino Policy Institute at
Roger Williams University or a designee, one of whom shall be the executive
director of the Providence External Review Authority or a designee and two
members of the public.
“I’m encouraged by the many calls I have received seeking a
seat on the commission, and people’s willingness to testify and participate,”
said Senator Metts. Senator Metts said bringing the proper balance of voices is
his goal. He is determined that, with many stakeholders at the table, the task
force can take an honest look at the system and its effects and propose
resolution sets a reporting date for the task force of Feb. 9, 2021.