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ACLU Criticizes Governor’s Response to State Police Report on Raid of Indian Smoke Shop

Posted: August 05, 2003|Category: Police Practices

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The ACLU of Rhode Island, joined by representatives from three civil rights groups -- the R.I. Civil Rights Roundtable, R.I. Affirmative Action Professionals and the Providence Human Relations Commission -- have called on Governor Donald Carcieri to publicly respond to “troubling issues” raised by the State Police internal report of the July 14th Narragansett Indian smoke shop raid, including information that the state police clearly knew that a confrontation was likely to occur if an attempt to execute a search warrant was made.

In a three-page letter sent to the Governor yesterday, the groups also note that although the report was supposed to answer why his instructions -- that the police withdraw if any resistance were encountered -- “were not followed and, who if anyone, is responsible,” the report doesn’t address that question at all. “To the contrary,” states the letter, “the report seeks to create the clearly erroneous impression that state officials were abiding by your directions even as it makes abundantly apparent that they were ignoring your directive.” Further excerpts from the letter follow:

“Even more disturbing, the report also leaves no doubt that state officials were well aware that going onto tribal land to execute a search warrant would likely result in some type of confrontation, and that the state police were prepared for one. After all, when police make a conscious decision to utilize a ‘Quick Response Team,’ a ‘group of troopers specifically trained in crowd and riot control,’ it is somewhat disingenuous to feign surprise at the melee that erupted at the smoke shop.

“Your insistence that you wanted nobody to get hurt – as sincere as that insistence may have been – simply cannot be reconciled with the information documented in the report about the Tribe’s likely resistance should the police seek to forcibly enter tribal land. . . In numerous places, the report again and again emphasizes the state’s awareness that some type of resistance was likely should a raid be conducted.

“The notion that the state police were prepared to immediately withdraw upon meeting resistance is also explicitly belied by the rest of the report. In providing a blow-by-blow account of the raid itself, the report makes clear that as resistance was encountered, state police, rather than withdraw, continued to proceed with the raid, even as the resistance got stronger.

“In sum, the report you requested from the state police fails to take any responsibility for its failure to withdraw, while purporting to acknowledge and abide by your order to that effect. And the bulk of the report, rather than demonstrating an attempt to prevent a confrontation, shows that police were well aware from the beginning that a confrontation would likely occur. Once it did, police, in their own words, continued to proceed with the raid. Surely these blatant inconsistencies deserve a response, not just from an independent panel a few months hence, but from you, now.”

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