STATE HOUSE – Sen. Harold M. Metts has announced he plans to work on legislation to overhaul the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.
The Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, adopted in Rhode Island in 1976, protects officers accused of misconduct, preventing them from being immediately fired or put on leave without pay, and allowing their continued employment to be decided by a panel of other police officers. The law has been widely criticized by many who believe it prevents justice from being served when officers are abusive.
Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence) said he plans to meet with stakeholders and consider their suggestions to shape a proposal to reform the law.
“Due process is one thing, however, it should not take video footage months later to expose brutality and murder. The law should not be for a special process of discipline that results in hiding crime and protecting wrongdoers that ultimately also taints the image of good officers,” said Senator Metts. “The Bill of Rights for our citizens is paramount. The Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights must compliment and not undermine this.”
The senator said he is hopeful that worldwide protests that erupted following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police — including one that drew an estimated crowd of 10,000 to the Rhode Island State House Friday — indicate that public pressure might finally achieve reform of the law, which has been stymied in the past.
“The struggle for justice here is universal. And the protest for justice is universal. The protestors, especially the youth, are people from all backgrounds, all colors. The mix of people who are standing up for justice and equality today is not only heartwarming, but will lead to positive change, and will lead to the healing that our country needs,” he said.
He said he is also optimistic that leaders are listening to the protesters, in particular that Gov. Gina M. Raimondo has met with the leaders of Black Lives Matter in Rhode Island.