Police Practice Issues The ACLU of Rhode Island is Involved With - Court Cases, Legislation, News Releases

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Police Practices

Police play an important role in working to protect and serve the public, yet abuses of police power continue to be a problem in Rhode Island and nationwide, particularly in low-income communities and in communities of color.  Years of traffic stop data in Rhode Island have demonstrated consistently that black and Hispanic drivers are twice as likely as white drivers to be stopped by police and searched, while white drivers are more likely to be found with contraband when searched.  The ACLU of Rhode Island has worked for many years as a part of a diverse coalition to advocate for the passage of comprehensive legislation to prevent racial profilingThe ACLU also works on various other police misconduct issues, such as those surrounding stop-and-frisk tactics, surveillance, brutality, and the withholding of public police records from citizens.

The ACLU of Rhode Island recently released a report, "The School-To-Prison Pipeline In Black And White," offers a brief but systematic examination of racial disparities in Rhode Island, and how those interconnected disparities can lead to a lifetime of unequal treatment. The report highlights numerous disparities, including those in traffic stop and search rates and arrest rates.

Police Misconduct in the News

  • Nov, 13, 2017: ACLU Releases Analysis of Recent Police Shooting; Says Many Questions Remain Unanswered
  • Nov, 01, 2017: ACLU Sues Over State Police Abuse of Power
  • Oct, 11, 2017: ACLU Sues Johnston Police Department for Violating First Amendment Rights of Former Detective

View All News Releases Related to Police Misconduct »

Police Misconduct Related Court Cases

2017: Lacoste v. RI State Police
Category: Active Case    Due Process    Fair Administration of Justice    Open Government    Police Practices    

 

About This Case:
This is a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the RI State Police for abusing their power by retaliating against a Warwick resident who declined to serve as an informant for the agency in an ongoing criminal investigation. The lawsuit argues that RISP relied on a dubious state law to bar the plaintiff from continuing to work at the Twin River Casino in Lincoln when she bowed out of assisting RISP as an informant.

Current Status:
Suit filed in November 2017.

ACLU Cooperating Attorney:
James W. Musgrave

Supporting Documents
2017: Brady v. Tamburini
Category: Active Case    Fair Administration of Justice    Free Speech    Open Government    Police Practices    Workplace Rights    

About This Case:
This is a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the Johnston Police Department on behalf of retired Detective James Brady, an 18-year veteran of the force.  The suit argues that Johnston Police Chief Richard Tamburini violated Brady’s free speech rights by disciplining him after he spoke to the news media about a matter of public concern.

Current Status:
Suit filed in October 2017.

ACLU Cooperating Attorney:
John W. Dineen

Supporting Documents

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Police Misconduct Related Legislation

Police Body Cameras (H 5926) DIED
Category: 2017    Police Practices    

For the second year in a row, legislation has been proposed to set up the framework to ensure that the use of body cameras among police agencies in Rhode Island properly safeguards the integrity of encounters between law enforcement and civilians. The ACLU testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee during the first week of April arguing that cameras have the potential to be a win-win for both law enforcement and the community—but only if they are deployed within a framework of strong policies to ensure they promote transparency and accountability, while also protecting legitimate privacy interests during some police encounters.

The legislation contains provisions that detail when the camera should be activated by the police officer during an encounter, as well as when recording should be discontinued if a crime victim asks to do so. An important provision addresses the use, retention, and access to body camera data, stating that any body camera recording should be kept for up to three years if it “captures use of force, events leading up to a felony arrest, an encounter that has resulted in a complaint, or if an officer asserts that the recording has evidentiary or exculpatory value.” The legislation would also allow victims of police force to obtain access to the camera footage. It is in contrast to the policy adopted by the Providence Police Department - the first department in the state to purchase the cameras - which the ACLU has criticized for failing to promote either transparency or accountability. No further action was taken on this legislation after the hearing.