Assembly passes Law Enforcement Officers’ Due Process, Accountability and Transparency Act

 

            STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today passed the Law Enforcement Officers’ Due Process, Accountability and Transparency Act which will bring significant and long-overdue reforms to the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR).

            The legislation was introduced by Deputy Speaker Raymond A. Hull and Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio.  Deputy Speaker Hull is currently the commanding officer of the Housing Unit in the Providence Police Department, where he has served for 35 years.

            “I am grateful to the many stakeholders from all sides of this issue who have worked over the past several years to develop and refine this legislation,” said President Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence). “While there will be some who say this bill goes too far and others who say it doesn’t go far enough, I think the bill strikes a responsible balance that brings necessary and appropriate reforms to LEOBOR. Throughout this process, we who worked on it in the Senate sought to both recognize the unique and dangerous work of the dedicated law enforcement officers who keep our communities safe and to improve the tools available so that those who violate the public trust can be held accountable. This bill is a reasonable, responsible compromise developed over the course of several years and consistent with the recommendations of the Senate study commission that intensively reviewed this issue.”       

            “Reform to LEOBOR has been a long time coming and this legislation will not only deliver transparency and accountability to the public, but it will also help police departments across the state root out misconduct in a fair and just way.  When facing the polarization and cynicism that is currently plaguing our society, trust in law enforcement is even more crucial to preserve public safety and I believe this bill can restore that trust between the officers who selflessly protect all of us and the people that they serve,” said Deputy Speaker Hull (D-Dist. 6, Providence, North Providence).

            “I am proud of the LEOBOR bills, which were negotiated with the participation of the House and Senate, the police unions, the police chiefs and other interested parties.  Both chambers have been working on this issue for over two years with the goals of achieving due process, accountability and transparency.  This was so important that we included those goals in the title of the bills,” said Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick).  “Although some do not believe these bills go far enough, it has been decades since we have been able to address police misconduct in such a meaningful and substantive way.  We recognize the important work that law enforcement does in our communities.  However, the status quo is unacceptable and these bills create a framework to address police misconduct.” 

            The legislation (2024-H 7263Aaa, 2024-S 2096Aaa) would establish a five-member hearing committee consisting of three qualified and randomly selected law enforcement officers by the Police Officers Commission on Standards and Training (POST), a retired judge, and an attorney selected in consultation with the Supreme Court’s Committee on Racial and Ethnic Fairness and the Rhode Island Bar Association’s Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion.

            It would establish a two-tier summary suspension structure ranging from a five to 14-day summary suspension and allow a police chief to make public statements and release video evidence in any instance other than summary suspensions imposed for minor infractions against department policy.

            The act would also require the publishing of the status and other information relating to all pending hearings on the POST website for the public.

            The Senate amended both bills on the floor to address concerns about public access to body camera footage.  The amended language clarifies that all police worn body camera footage can be made public through the public records requests.  The House of Representatives then passed both amended bills in concurrence. 

            The legislation now heads to the governor for consideration.

 

 

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