The ACLU of Rhode Island is seeking to have the Providence Police Department held in contempt of court for its continued failure to comply with the state’s racial profiling law and with court orders that had previously found the Police Department in contempt for non-compliance with that law. Even as the City continues its appeal of that initial contempt finding, the ACLU has today asked the R.I. Supreme Court to return the case to Superior Court for a further contempt hearing.
Pursuant to a court order issued last year in response to the ACLU’s two-year lawsuit challenging the City’s non-compliance with the Traffic Stops Statistics Act, Providence police were required to continue to collect traffic stops data through July of this year. Data collection for all other departments concluded last December. Shortly after the new Mayoral administration in Providence was installed, compliance temporarily improved. However, a report issued last month by experts at Northeastern University analyzed May’s data and showed that the City’s compliance was worse than it had ever been since the Police Department was held in contempt of court last October. The ACLU sent a letter to Mayor David Cicilline at the time, demanding explanations for the poor compliance, but a response was never received.
The experts’ report for June, which the ACLU received last week, raises even more questions about the Police Department’s compliance, leading to the ACLU’s motion. According to that report, the police department submitted 652 traffic stop cards for June, yet videotapes from 23 police cruisers equipped with cameras contained a total of only 12 recorded stops for the entire month.
R.I. ACLU volunteer attorney Carolyn Mannis said today: “I had hoped that the new administration in Providence would foster a different attitude towards data collection in order to enable the experts to determine as accurately as possible the extent of racial profiling in Providence. Based upon the recent reports of the experts, I was wrong.” R.I. ACLU executive director Steven Brown added: “It is unfortunate that the City of Providence has persisted in its appeal of the court order from last October finding the police department in contempt of court. I find it doubly unfortunate that, even as the City seeks to argue that the ACLU should never have been allowed to sue the police department in the first place for non-compliance with the Traffic Stops Statistics Act, the data two years later show continued non-compliance with that law.”