Though the protection of civil rights is a laudable goal, it is critical to ensure that legislation with the intention of doing so does not unintentionally facilitate unconstitutional overreaches of power. This bill would create an entirely new power for the Office of Civil Rights Advocate within the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office which would allow for this office to summon any person who may have information about potentially unlawful activities and compel them to disclose their knowledge; although the Attorney General has claimed that this power would allow for his office to more effectively investigate police misconduct, the lack of clear limitations within the bill means that, potentially, this power could be used against individuals who protested police brutality, for example, or organized a march during which some participants engaged in unlawful activities. For this reason, and other First Amendment related issues which are explained further in our testimony, we testified in opposition to this inappropriate broadening of power.
Office of Civil Rights Advocate (S 2585)
Senator Harold Metts
Passed Senate, Died in House