The Providence City Council passed the Community Safety Act (CSA) on a 13-1 vote Thursday evening as well over 200 supporters rallied and cheered. The sole ‘no’ vote came from Councilor Michael Correira (Ward 6) who left the room, apparently dismayed by the vote, as the crowd erupted in celebration.
(Though the act has been re-titled the Providence Community-Police Relations Act (PCPRA), I am referring to it by its original title because that’s how it is referred to by advocates.)
Now that the CSA has passed the City Council a second time, it awaits the signature of Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza. Elorza’s communications director Emily Crowell confirmed that the mayor will sign the ordinance into law, but gave no indication as to when.
“This is our victory. Never let any elected official or politician or anyone ever tell you otherwise,” said Vanessa Flores-Maldonado, who led the coalition seeking to pass the CSA, “We, the community, this is us, alright? We showed in there [the Providence City Council chamber] what power looks like. And we will not stop until Elorza signs [the CSA] officially into law.”
Below you can watch the Providence City Council pass the CSA, from two different cameras:
The CSA was first passed by the City Council in April, but last minute objections from the Providence Fraternal Order of Police (Providence FOP) derailed the second passage of the ordinance. The CSA was sent to a special committee, the CSA Working Group, for revisions. After four long meetings, a series of minor changes were made to the text of the ordinance. These changes clarified the intent of the ordinance to the satisfaction of both the community organizers who brought the CSA to the City Council in the first place, and the President of the Providence FOP, Robert Boehm, who co-signed a letter with the rest of the CSA Working Group recommending passage of the ordinance.
Despite the CSA Working Group’s effort to mollify police concerns, the FOP sent a letter to the City Council hours before the vote saying that police officers still opposed the ordinance. Police concerns only seem to have persuaded one city councilor, Correira, who voted yes on the CSA during the first vote.
In a statement the Providence City Council called the legislation “one of the most progressive policing bills in the United States,” one that “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 statement went on to highlight important aspects of the ordinance:
Prohibits racial and other forms of discriminatory profiling
- 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
- Allows individuals stopped by the police to request and receive a report on their stop
- Mandates policies for the use of body-worn cameras
- Protects individuals’ rights to photograph and film the police
Mandates greater transparency and accountability in police-community interactions
- 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
- Requires that officers inform individuals of their constitutional right to refuse before asking for consent to a search
- Requires officers in uniform to show their federal ID numbers
- Requires officers to provide their federal ID number when conducting stops and searches
- 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
- Establishes right of transgender individuals to be searched by an officer of their gender identity and requires the Providence Police Department to develop policies for handling those searches
- Prohibits officers from inquiring about an individual’s immigration status, and requires officers to accept valid identification from foreign governments
- Sets standards for dealing with individuals lacking proof of identification
- Prohibits officers from photographing juveniles under most circumstances
Improves and codifies policies for use of Gang Database
- Requires the Police Department to establish policies for determining if an individual should be added to the gang database
- Prohibits certain factors, such as race, from being included in the criteria for adding someone to the gang database
- Requires parental notification when anyone under 18 is added to the gang databas
- Allows anyone over 18 to ask if they are on the gang database
- Creates both an administrative removal process and a formal appeal process for people who feel they were added to the database in error.
- 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
- Requires the Police Department maintain its language access hotline to connect officers with qualified translators
- Requires the use of qualified translators if the officer isn’t fluent in the language spoken (except in emergencies)
- Mandates policies on officer fluency and defining emergencies
- Requires custodial interrogations of LEP individuals be recorded
- Requires vital materials be available in the five most commonly spoken languages in Providence
In the video below, taken after the successful CSA vote, Vanessa Flores-Maldonado, Malchus Mills, Linda Heng and Sarath Suong address the crowd about next steps.