Landmark Legislation Aims to End Racial Profiling, Bolster Police Accountability and Oversight
PROVIDENCE, R.I.— The Providence City Council tonight approved final passage of the Providence Community-Police Relations Act (PCPRA), a comprehensive, community-driven ordinance that aims to end racial profiling and codify into law best practices in police conduct from around the country. The PCPRA is considered one of the most progressive policing bills in the United States, and includes a broad range of measures that strengthen protections for youth, transgender individuals, people of color, and immigrants. The comprehensive scope of the ordinance makes it the first of its kind in the country.
The landmark legislation was approved with recommended amendments from a panel comprised of community members, police administration and union representatives, and City solicitor, administration, and City Council representatives. The amendments include greater clarification of definitions used in the ordinance, improved language that eliminates confusion about intent, and language changes that ensure consistency between the ordinance and State law. The final version of the ordinance also reflects the panel’s recommendation to change the ordinance’s name from the Community Safety Act to the Providence Community-Police Relations Act to better demonstrate its intent.
In its final form, the PCPRA is the product of nearly three years of stakeholder engagement. Among its many provisions, the ordinance effectively prohibits racial and other forms of discriminatory profiling, mandates policies for the use of body cameras, brings much-needed reforms to the Providence Police Department’s “gang database,” and codifies policies regarding non-criminal immigration concerns.
First introduced in 2014, the ordinance reflects years of research and collaboration between community members, elected officials, and public safety leaders. The comprehensive legislation brings together and expands upon best practices adopted from numerous cities, including New York City, Seattle, and Austin. The City Council solicited input from a wide range of stakeholders—including the Fraternal Order of Police, members of the STEP-UP Coalition, the Chief of Police, Commissioner of Public Safety, the Mayor’s Office, and the City’s law department—to deliver an ordinance that builds upon the Providence Police Department’s positive track record of community-police relations and public trust.
· Prohibits racial and other forms of discriminatory profiling
o Prevents police officers from racially profiling or otherwise discriminating against individuals based on their race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, and other factors
· Establishes how police officers will document and collect data from traffic and pedestrian stops
o Allows individuals stopped by the police to request and receive a report on their stop
o Mandates policies for the use of body-worn cameras
o Protects individuals’ rights to photograph and film the police
· Mandates greater transparency and accountability in police-community interactions
o Requires officers to inform drivers of why their vehicle was stopped, sets standards for requiring information from passengers, and codifies policy on individuals driving without a license
o Requires that officers inform individuals of their constitutional right to refuse before asking for consent to a search
o Requires officers in uniform to show their federal ID numbers
o Requires officers to provide their federal ID number when conducting stops and searches.
o Requires the Chief of Police to submit quarterly reports to Providence External Review Authority (PERA) on the data collected
· Establishes new protections for juveniles, immigrants, and transgender individuals
o Establishes right of transgender individuals to be searched by an officer of their gender identity and requires Police Department to develop policies for handling those searches
o Prohibits officers from inquiring about an individual’s immigration status, and requires officers to accept valid identification from foreign governments
o Sets standards for dealing with individuals lacking proof of identification
o Prohibits officers from photographing juveniles under most circumstances
· Improves and codifies policies for use of Gang Database
o Requires the Police Department to establish policies for determining if an individual should be added to the gang database
o Prohibits certain factors, such as race, from being included in the criteria for adding someone to the gang database
o Requires parental notification when anyone under 18 is added to the gang database
o Allows anyone over 18 to ask if they are on the gang database
o Creates both an administrative removal process and a formal appeal process for people who feel they were added to the database in error.
o Requires an annual audit of the gang database to identify any errors and make recommendations for improving its use
· Improves language access for Limited English Proficient (LEP) individuals
o Requires the Police Department maintain its language access hotline to connect officers with qualified translators
o Requires the use of qualified translators if the officer isn’t fluent in the language spoken (except in emergencies)
o Mandates policies on officer fluency and defining emergencies
o Requires custodial interrogations of LEP individuals be recorded
o Requires vital materials be available in the five most commonly spoken languages in Providence