CSA working group reaches consensus, submits recommendations to City Council

CSA Working Group Reaches Consensus, Submits Recommendations to City Council

PROVIDENCE, RI — The City Council Committee on Ordinances will tonight (Tuesday) receive a final report from the Community Safety Act Working Group, a panel established by the Council in April tasked with resolving outstanding concerns about  the proposed landmark ordinance that seeks to improve police and community relations by adopting best practices from around the country.  The working group was comprised of community members, police administration and union representatives, and City solicitor, administration, and City Council representatives. 

The working group’s recommendations include greater clarification of definitions used in the ordinance, improved language that eliminates confusion about intent, and language changes that ensure consistency between the ordinance and State law. The working group has also proposed changing the ordinance’s title to the Providence Community-Police Relations Act (PCPRA) to better demonstrate its intent.  

“The working group’s final recommendations reflect an open, collaborative process that successfully resolved all stakeholders’ stated concerns,” said Majority Leader Bryan Principe (Ward 13), who served as the group’s chair. “Our diverse panel of stakeholders engaged in thoughtful deliberation to make friendly amendments that strengthen and clarify this important piece of legislation.”

"The working group was constructive in making necessary changes and modifications with the original version. It also presented an opportunity to make clarifications on some of the language to resolve issues,” said Providence Police Chief Col. Hugh Clements. “I stand in support of this current version."

The group met regularly throughout the month to reach consensus on each of the ordinance’s proposed amendments. Working group members were careful not to alter the intent of the ordinance, and instead focused on improving and clarifying the language in the legislation. Each recommended amendment of the ordinance was approved unanimously by the panel. 

“The working group has done an outstanding job in working through some of the former concerns about the ordinance and coming up with alternatives that we can feel confident about,” said Councilwoman Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), who served as a member of the working group. 

“This process brought everyone together to participate in the discussion, which was beneficial for the act itself and to achieve its objective,” said Councilman Terrence Hassett (Ward 12), who chairs the Council’s Ordinance Committee and served as a member of the working group. 

“This is an important piece of legislation, and the additional deliberation was time well spent,” said Majority Whip Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5). “I commend the working group for their diligence and working together to address unresolved issues.”

In its final form, the bill is the product of nearly three years of stakeholder engagement. Among its many provisions, the ordinance effectively prohibits racial and other forms of discriminatory profiling, mandates policies for the use of body cameras, brings much-needed reforms to the Providence Police Department’s “gang database,” and codifies policies regarding non-criminal immigration concerns.

CSA HIGHLIGHTS

•    Prohibits racial and other forms of discriminatory profiling
o    Prevents police officers from racially profiling or otherwise discriminating against individuals based on their race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, and other factors

•    Establishes how police officers will document and collect data from traffic and pedestrian stops
o    Allows individuals stopped by the police to request and receive a report on their stop
o    Mandates policies for the use of body-worn cameras
o    Protects individuals’ rights to photograph and film the police

•    Mandates greater transparency and accountability in police-community interactions
o    Requires officers to inform drivers of why their vehicle was stopped, sets standards for requiring information from passengers, and codifies policy on individuals driving without a license
o    Requires that officers inform individuals of their constitutional right to refuse before asking for consent to a search 
o    Requires officers in uniform to wear name tags and to show their federal ID numbers
o    Requires officers to provide their name and federal ID number when conducting stops and searches. 
o    Requires the Chief of Police to submit quarterly reports to Providence External Review Authority (PERA) on the data collected

•    Establishes new protections for juveniles, immigrants, and transgender individuals
o    Establishes right of transgender individuals to be searched by an officer of their gender identity and requires Police Department to develop policies for handling those searches
o    Prohibits officers from inquiring about an individual’s immigration status, and requires officers to accept valid identification from foreign governments
o    Sets standards for dealing with individuals lacking proof of identification
o    Prohibits officers from photographing juveniles under most circumstances

•    Improves and codifies policies for use of Gang Database
o    Requires the Police Department to establish policies for determining if an individual should be added to the gang database
o    Prohibits certain factors, such as race, from being included in the criteria for adding someone to the gang database
o    Requires parental notification when anyone under 18 is added to the gang database
o    Allows anyone over 18 to ask if they are on the gang database
o    Creates both an administrative removal process and a formal appeal process for people who feel they were added to the database in error.
o    Requires an annual audit of the gang database to identify any errors and make recommendations for improving its use

•    Improves language access for Limited English Proficient (LEP) individuals
o    Requires the Police Department maintain its language access hotline to connect officers with qualified translators
o    Requires the use of qualified translators if the officer isn’t fluent in the language spoken (except in emergencies)
o    Mandates policies on officer fluency and defining emergencies
o    Requires custodial interrogations of LEP individuals be recorded
o    Requires vital materials be available in the five most commonly spoken languages in Providence

Councilors are expected to take a final vote on the proposed legislation at the City Council meeting on Thursday, June 1st at 7:00 pm. 

(release from Providence City Council) 

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