“This ordinance is the most comprehensive community-police relations law in the country and is a national model for community policing,” said Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza in a statement, “With so much tension in the air in cities throughout the country, Providence is being proactive in collecting data and in adopting policies promoting transparency, accountability and strong community relations. I am signing this ordinance into law because it will help make us a better police department and it is an important component of our progressive approach to policing.”
Elorza signed the Community Safety Act (CSA) without fanfare. There was no photo opp, just a press release announcing the deed done. The way the ordinance was signed into law frustrated and disappointed the coalition of community groups who have worked so many years to get the CSA passed.
“We are happy that after so many years Mayor Elorza along with the more reluctant members of the city council have done their duty to represent the people of the city who worked so hard for this ordinance” said Vanessa Flores-Maldonado, CSA Campaign Coordinator. “However we also express frustration and disappointment that the mayor chose to sign the ordinance in a way that failed to recognize the tremendous community building that went into its creation and passage.”The press release from Flores-Maldonado and PrYSM (Providence Youth Student Movement) claims that Elorza only agreed to sign the CSA after making several attempts to “drastically weaken” the bill. “Once it became clear that the ordinance would pass with enough votes to prevent a veto the Mayor finally declared his support for the the measure as developed by his constituents.”
For his part, that Mayor, in his statement said, “While I am proud to sign this legislation today and to join the residents, councilmembers and community members who have been a part of the process, I look forward to our work ahead.”
The rift between the community that crafted the legislation and the mayor who signed it into law is apparent even in the way they refer to the legislation. Elorza refers to the act as the Providence Community-Police Relations Act (PCPRA) while the community still refers to the act as the CSA.
Still there is much Mayor Elorza and the community agree upon. One is the historical nature of the legislation. Elorza said, “This ordinance is the most comprehensive community-police relations law in the country and is a national model for community policing.” The community calls the CSA “one of the most progressive city ordinances in the nation to address a multitude of policing issues.”
They also agree that there is work to be done before the act goes into effect on in January.
“While this is an important step, I know that high-quality, community policing is not achieved through legislation alone but through continued commitment of every member of the team,” said Elorza, “I know that our work is never done and we will to continue to engage stakeholders, the community, educators and our public safety officials, to improve our community police relations in every neighborhood in Providence.
“We know that passage of the ordinance is only the first step,” acknowledged Linda Heng of PrYSM and member of the CSA Working Group that did the last minute revisions to the ordinance that allowed final passage, “and there is still a lot of work to be done crafting policies and getting PERA (the Providence External Review Authority) up and running. More than anything, the success of the CSA will depend on making sure that our families, our neighbors, our entire community know our rights.”