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Community Groups Call for Explanation from Police Chiefs About Reversal of Support on Bill

Posted: May 17, 2011|Category: Discrimination Category: Racial/Ethnic Discrimination Category: Police Practices

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The Coalition Against Racial Profiling has called upon the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association to provide a public accounting of their withdrawal of support for the Comprehensive Racial Profiling Prevention Act. The Coalition said such an accounting was necessary to follow up on a legislative committee chair’s call for further negotiations between the police chiefs and the community to reach agreement on a revised bill.

In a letter sent Thursday to RIPCA head Chief Edward Mello, the Coalition stated, “In order for any meeting of the parties to be useful, we believe it is essential that we first be given a full explanation for RIPCA’s decision to withdraw its support for a bill that had been approved by its members only a week earlier.”

The legislation (H 5263/S 0219), sponsored by Rep. Grace Diaz and Sen. Rhoda Perry, seeks to reduce police practices that lead to profiling by standardizing requirements for traffic stops. At a House Judiciary Committee hearing in April, RIPCA endorsed a revised version of the legislation that had been the subject of lengthy negotiations with the community, but a week later RIPCA pulled its support. In doing so, RIPCA cited two significant provisions in the bill that had already been addressed during the negotiations and approved by both sides. The Coalition previously called for a public explanation of RIPCA’s unexplained turnaround in an op-ed article, but received no response.

The letter to Chief Mello noted, “Throughout the course of the negotiations that took place over the last few months, our coalition members acted in good faith, with the sincere desire to work out a reasonable Sub A. Both sides made compromises in getting to the language that now appears in the legislation.” Noting Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Michael McCaffrey’s recommendation that the Coalition and RIPCA continue their negotiations, the Coalition’s letter responded: “Although we do not believe we are in a position to sacrifice any more without gutting the bill, and we continue to feel the sting of RIPCA’s decision to renege on the compromise that had been reached, we have also concluded that it would be wrong to ignore Sen. McCaffrey’s appeal to the parties to still try to work this out.”

The letter adds, “In order to … have any further meaningful discussion about the legislation, it is essential that we first learn how and why RIPCA’s sudden reversal of position came to pass. We trust that you agree that our coalition deserves no less.” Chief Mello’s response was requested by May 20th.

The letter was signed by 19 of the organizations making up the Coalition, including the R.I. Commission for Human Rights, the NAACP Providence Branch, ULMAC, Providence Youth Student Movement, the American Friends Service Committee, the R.I. ACLU, and the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers.

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