STATE HOUSE – The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing Monday on legislation sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts creating a special legislative task force to review and provide recommendations on policies pertaining to the Rhode Island Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.
The task force is to comprehensively study and provide recommendations on the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR), to ensure accountability and protection against misconduct. Adopted in Rhode Island in 1976, the LEOBOR 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.
“Public safety officers are to protect public safety, and there should not be ways to prevent those who pervert justice from being held accountable,” said Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence). “The black, brown and southeast Asian communities have long called for genuine reform of this law to protect our safety. While it shouldn’t take widely distributed videos of police brutality and murder, as well as worldwide protests, to finally bring about change, I’m hopeful that our call is finally too great to ignore.”
The resolution calls for the task force to study protection of the rights of residents, conduct and accountability responsibilities, police relations with racial and ethnic minority communities, police management, disciplinary procedures, enhanced training for cultural competency and mental health, and diversity in all law enforcement agencies.
The 13-member task force is to include three senators, Attorney General Peter F. Neronha (who plans to serve in person rather than send a designee), the superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police or a designee, a police chief of a Rhode Island law enforcement agency, the executive director of the Rhode Island Human Rights Commission or a designee, the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Providence Branch or a designee, the President of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO or a designee, the executive director of the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University or a designee, one of whom shall be the executive director of the Providence External Review Authority or a designee and two members of the public.
Senator Metts said bringing the proper balance of voices is his goal. He is determined that, with many stakeholders at the table, the task force can take an honest look at the system and its effects and propose improvements.
“While the unions will be represented on this task force as well, I know that many police chiefs and superintendents adamantly agree that the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights need reform. It ties their hands from responding appropriately and with the necessary speed in cases of misconduct,” he said.
The resolution sets a reporting date for the task force of Feb. 9, 2021.