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.