Providence, RI - Backed by social justice warriors and civil rights groups, the Providence city council unanimously approved the "Community Safety Act" on Thursday, which makes their community significantly less safe. The new law places restrictions on police actions which are much more strict than the law otherwise allows.
Civil rights groups have been following a trend recently where they are less concerned about defending people's actual constitutional rights, and more caught up in trying to secure additional rights for criminals. Legal and ethical investigative techniques used by police officers are more commonly becoming prohibited by police department policies in order to avoid lawsuits which improperly claim that police officers are violating people's Constitutional rights.
It is already the job of state and federal courts to make rulings on what police officers are legally allowed to do, and what they are not allowed to do. Unfortunately, because the Constitution doesn't afford criminals the level of protection that these groups would wish, they are now trying to pass laws which place those additional restrictions on police officers. In Providence, they succeeded.
Whether done intentionally or out of ignorance, the new law offers an unprecedented level of protection for criminals while preventing police officers from enforcing laws. The massive law is almost 4,500 words long, and includes some provisions which are outright absurd. The worst parts of the law are as follows:
Electronic Data Collection Report
Officers are required to complete an Electronic Data Collection Report any time they stop somebody. The form requires a laundry list of information about the contact, which then needs to be made publicly available in an online database. This is similar to Chicago PD "investigatory stop reports" which require officers to fill out a long form after every stop. This practice has resulted in Chicago Police Department officers reducing proactive contacts by an estimated 82% while shootings in the city are skyrocketing.
When you require police to fill out a form that takes longer to complete than the actual traffic stop, you aren't only unnecessarily eating up the officers' time, officers are unlikely to bother stopping people.
Part of the text says, "When conducting any investigatory activity, law enforcement shall not rely on race, ethnicity, color, national origin, use of a foreign language, limited English proficiency, gender, gender identity and/or expression, sexual orientation, political affiliation, religion, housing status, physical or mental disability, or serious medical condition as a basis, in whole or in part, for suspecting that a person has committed or is about to commit a crime, unless the officer’s decision is based on a specific and reliable suspect description that includes not just these characteristics, but other identifying characteristics or information as well."
So if an officer is dispatched to a shooting where the suspect is a white male using crutches, according to this law, it's discrimination to stop that person unless you have other specific identifiers.
Officers must immediately tell criminals why they were stopped
At first glance, this doesn't seem too bad. Officers are required to tell people the reason why they were stopped. "Sir/Maam, I stopped you for speeding." The problem is when officers are investigating a crime, they don't necessarily want to tell the criminals that they know about the crime. "Sir/Maam, I stopped you because undercover detectives said that you are trafficking methamphetamine."
Passengers can't be asked for identification unless they are suspect of a crime
Great, except what if the passenger committed a traffic code violation? What if an officers stops a car with a passenger hanging out the window? What if a motorcycle passenger doesn't have a helmet? While likely not the intent of the law, it's now prohibited to identify non-criminal violators who are passengers.
Suspects should be searched by somebody of the same gender identity
Honestly, this isn't a big deal, I'm just waiting for somebody to ask, "Is the tri-gender officer working tonight?"
Police can't identify people who look like they may be under 18-years-old
Officers are required to accept as true if somebody who looks like they may be a juvenile says that they don't have identification, and officers cannot ask them again or take their picture. This gives people a free pass to commit non-criminal violations as long as they look young. The new law also interferes with criminal investigations if the suspect looks young.
If officers forget to say both their name and badge number when they stop somebody, they can be sued
All officers are required to provide their name and badge number to people they stop, not just upon request. If the officer forgets to do so, both the officer and department can be sued and have to pay attorney fees. This is especially problematic with fleeing suspects because after a group of officers chase/fight with a suspect, it's probably not on their mind to state their name and badge number.
This is especially absurd because it's the city government enacting a law which allows them to be sued. Taxpayers are going to end up giving large payouts to criminals because their city council wanted the city to have less protection from lawsuits.
The draft shows that the police department can be sued and have their funding pulled for just about anything, but local news reports that the provision which pulls funding from the police department was removed.
Gang member protection
Police are not allowed to indicate that a suspect may be a member of a criminal gang without having them first placed on an official "gang list." Placement on the gang list requires the person to go through a review process, the gang member must be notified, and they have a chance to appeal it. If the gang member goes two years without getting caught committing a crime, they can be removed from the gang list.
These policies are only going to harm efforts of police officers to enforce the law and investigate crimes, and the city is going to very quickly see the impact.
What are your thoughts on this law? We'd like to hear from you. Please let us know in the comments.