Aponte Issues Statement in Response to FOP Letter Regarding Community Safety Act

City Council President Luis Aponte today issued the following statement in response to a letter sent to the Council yesterday from the Providence Fraternal Order of Police regarding tonight’s vote on the Community Safety Act:

The Community Safety Act (CSA) has been vetted through a highly collaborative 3-year process inclusive of the Providence Police Department and the people of Providence.  The CSA builds upon the best practices from our own police department by adopting legislation that has been proven effective in other cities across the country. Since the CSA was first introduced in 2014, the Providence City Council has solicited and received input from many organizations, including law enforcement officials and the police union.  The Community Safety Act has earned a wide range of support from many reputable local institutions, including Trinity Repertory Company, Economic Progress Institute, NAACP, Student National Medical Association at Alpert Medical School, Dorcas Institute, National Lawyers Guild of Rhode Island, Medical Students of Rhode Island, Fox Point Neighborhood Association, Girls Rock Rhode Island, New Urban Arts, RI Association of Naturopathic Physicians, and the ACLU.

This is a landmark moment for the City of Providence. After three years of intense collaboration and numerous revisions that address the stated concerns of our law enforcement officials, the end result is an ordinance in which our community can take tremendous pride.

Yesterday, in a letter to the City Council, the Providence Fraternal Order of Police raised some last minute concerns about the CSA that are based upon factual errors:

–           The FOP erroneously stated that the CSA mandates that a gang member would be removed from the gang database if he/she has no convictions within a two-year period. In reality, the CSA requires individuals be removed from gang database if they have no convictions for two years and no new evidence meeting the criteria for inclusion has been found in two years. Simply put, police wouldn’t consider someone a suspect in a crime if they found no evidence connecting them to that crime for years. This should not be any different for the gang database.

–           The FOP’s letter states that the Police Department will have to notify every subject who has been stopped that video and/or audio recording of the stop is available. This is erroneous; only individuals under investigation will have the right to view or hear video/audio of their stop, unless it would negatively affect law enforcement action. State law already gives individuals the right to view video of traffic stops they are involved in.

–           The FOP is contesting the Providence External Review Authority’s right to review proposed labor contracts once they become public documents. The CSA is not granting PERA any new rights regarding labor contracts; all citizens and citizen groups have the right to review and comment on public documents such as contracts.

–           The FOP erroneously states that the CSA takes away rights of Limited English Proficiency (LEP) individuals to choose who interprets their conversations with officers. In fact, the CSA requires that officers who do not speak an LEP individual’s language use the Police Department’s language-access hotline, except in emergencies. The Department already has a language-access hotline; the CSA simply mandates that it must be used in non-emergency situations where language barriers are interfering with communication.

It is important to note that this ordinance does not take effect until January of 2018, so we have a long runway to identify and resolve further concerns as we work towards implementation.

Tomorrow: Arbor Day Tree Planting & Awards Ceremony

Tomorrow: Arbor Day Tree Planting & Awards Ceremony

Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan in conjunction with Mayor Jorge Elorza, the Providence Parks Department, Rhode Island Tree Council, RI Department of Environmental Management, National Grid, Providence Neighborhood Planting Program, and Mount Pleasant High School students, administrators and faculty will tomorrow host an Arbor Day Celebration at Mount Pleasant High School. This year, 20 trees will be planted at Mount Pleasant High School and 600 trees will be planted city-wide.

The Arbor Day event will include a tree planting ceremony, and the Tree City USA Award will be presented to the City of Providence by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. The Rhode Island Tree Council will be on site with educational booths, and certified arborists will field questions on tree planting and care. The event is free and open to the public.

WHO:         Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan, Mayor Jorge Elorza, National Grid CEO Tim Horan,  RI Tree Council Chair Doris Alberg,  RIDEM Director Janet Coit, Providence Parks Department, Providence Neighborhood Planting Program, Mt. Pleasant High School administrators, teachers, and students.

WHAT:       Arbor Day Event

WHERE:     Mount Pleasant High School, 434 Mt Pleasant Ave, Providence, RI 02908

WHEN:     Friday, April 28, 2017 at 11:00 am

Council Panel Approves Tougher Penalties for ATV & Dirt Bike Violations

Council Panel Approves Tougher Penalties for ATV & Dirt Bike Violations

The Providence City Council Committee on Ordinances tonight approved a measure that aims to give police officers greater latitude in addressing the city’s growing challenges with illegal use of dirt bikes and ATVs. In recent months, the city has seen an alarming uptick of these vehicles being used on city roads and in public parks, sometimes swarming in large numbers to intimidate onlookers. This winter, one motorist was killed while operating an ATV on a city street in the Manton neighborhood.

If approved by the full City Council, the ordinance will allow the Providence Police Department to confiscate and destroy recreational vehicles that are used illegally. The ordinance, adapted from a similar law in New York City, has already earned support from the Providence Police Department. “Over the past several years, Providence has experienced a growing number of recreational vehicles being driven on public streets and in public parks,” said Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steve Pare.  “These vehicles are driven recklessly, driven at high speeds and with no regard for the safety of others. This ordinance will allow the Providence Police Department to combat this problem in a way that will reduce and eventually eliminate the public safety threat that exists today.”

The ordinance is sponsored by Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5). “This is a city-wide issue that has great implications for the quality of life in all of our neighborhoods,” said Councilwoman Ryan. “I want to thank Captain Dean Isabella for his valuable insight.  This ordinance gives our police officers the tools they need to deal with the growing epidemic of illegal vehicles abusing our traffic laws and endangering the public.”

“We are doing everything we possibly can to rid the city of the ATVs and dirt bikes terrorizing our parks and neighborhoods,” said Councilman Michael Correia (Ward 6), who recently called upon the police department for increased enforcement.

Prior to becoming law,  the ordinance requires  two passages from the full City Council. The next City Council meeting will be held on Thursday, May 4th at 7:00 pm.

Council to Award Providence’s First ‘Municipal Medal for Deeds of Bravery’ to Firefighters, First Responders

Council to Award Providence’s First ‘Municipal Medal for Deeds of Bravery’ to Firefighters, First Responders

The Providence City Council will tonight bestow the City’s first municipal medals upon several members of the Providence Fire Department for extraordinary acts of bravery. Recipients include Lt. Robert McCullough, who was off-duty when he rescued a man from a burning building in December, and the firefighters and rescue technicians who resuscitated an infant after drowning in a bathtub in September 2016.

Although guidelines for the City’s municipal medal was first codified in the City Charter in 1915, no such medal has ever been awarded. Last fall, the City Council commissioned Olneyville artist Kiki Sciullo to design the medal and oversee production. The medals were manufactured exclusively in Providence and feature the City’s new seal of honor and heroism.

The medals will be presented to recipients at tonight’s City Council Meeting at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers on the third floor of City Hall. This event is open to the public. Media coverage is invited.

WHO:             Providence City Council Members, Municipal Medal Recipients, Medal Designer Kiki Sciullo

WHAT:           Municipal Medal Ceremony

WHERE:         City Council Chambers, Providence City Hall, 25 Dorrance St., Providence, RI 02903

WHEN:           7:00 p.m.

City Council Approves First Passage of Community Safety Act

City Council Approves First Passage of Community Safety Act

Landmark Legislation Aims to End Racial Profiling, Bolster Police Accountability and Oversight

The Providence City Council tonight approved first passage of the Community Safety Act (CSA), a comprehensive, community-driven ordinance that aims to end racial profiling and codify into law best practices in police conduct from around the country. The landmark legislation is considered one of the most progressive policing bills in the United States, and includes a broad range of measures that strengthen protections for youth, transgender individuals, people of color, and immigrants. The comprehensive scope of the ordinance makes it the first of its kind in the country.

First introduced in 2014, the CSA in its current form reflects years of research and collaboration between community members, elected officials, and public safety leaders. The landmark legislation brings together and expands upon best practices adopted from numerous cities, including New York City, Seattle, and Austin. The City Council solicited input from a wide range of stakeholders—including the Fraternal Order of Police, members of the STEP-UP Coalition, the Chief of Police, Commissioner of Public Safety, the Mayor’s Office, and the City’s law department—to deliver an ordinance that builds upon the Providence Police Department’s positive track record of community-police relations and public trust.

“At a time when many municipalities are seeing community-police relations deteriorate, we are fortunate to have seen the opposite effect here in Providence,” said City Council President Luis Aponte (Ward 10), who credits the Providence Police Department and its leadership for providing the Council with guidance and insight during the legislative process.

“The evolution of this legislation reflects the many hands and minds that have crafted and shaped it over the years. Through countless hours of intense, inclusive collaboration, the Community Safety Act has brought together activists, elected officials, and police officers with the shared goal of making our city safer for everyone,” said Councilwoman Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11).

“The Providence Community Safety Act is among the most progressive municipal police reform laws in the country,” said Andrea Ritchie, a civil rights attorney who was involved in the passage of New York City’s Community Safety Act in 2013. “Providence is leading the way for municipalities across the country by establishing broad protections against a wide range of profiling and discriminatory policing practices. The Providence Community Safety Act is a comprehensive package of common sense provisions that will help protect the rights of residents during police encounters, essential due process with respect to gang databases, and critical protections for immigrants.”

Prior to becoming law, the ordinance must be passed twice by the full City Council. Councilors may call a special meeting for second passage as early as next week.

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