Members of the Coalition to Pass the Community Safety Act (CSA) spoke out before Thursday night’s Providence City Council meeting about the importance of empowering local communities on policing.
“Providence needs the Community Safety Act because without it we feel unsafe,” said campaign coordinator Vanessa Flores-Maldonado in a statement. “The Coalition hopes that a public hearing will speak loudly to the need of an ordinance that seeks to hold police accountable when they harass and brutalize our community.
The Coalition, which is comprised of local community organizations and members, had previously submitted a petition on July 1 to have the city council hold a public hearing before going on their August break. However, the 90+ signatures submitted took 3 weeks to verify and no public hearing was scheduled within the 14 days required by the City Charter.
Malcus Mills of DARE (Direct Action for Rights and Equality) introduced three speakers, Dan, representing PrYSM (Providence Youth Student Movement), Wayne Woods of DARE, and Justice, speaking for RI Jobs with Justice.
Dan spoke about the gang database used by the Providence Police Department. If a youth is placed on the gang database list, they have no ability to remove their name or even check to see if their name is on the list. This may result in loss of job and educational opportunities in the future.
Right now, said Dan, the police, “judge people by their appearance, their race, gender etc, and they will say you are guilty… because they think you are part of a gang.”
Wayne Woods spoke of being profiled and pulled over on the East Side of Providence. After being removed from his car, searched, and then waiting for 20 minutes as his car was searched by police, he and his friend, both black men, were sent on their way. The police told the men, “To go home and take it easy.”
If the CSA were passed, said Woods, the car could only have been pulled over for probable cause and the police would have to issue a receipt to people they detain, outlining the conditions of the probable cause.
“A big part of why the CSA needs to be passed is so that we can hold people accountable to what they’re doing,” said Justice, representing Jobs with Justice. “Civil servants and law enforcement should be accountable just like other working people, and we need to be able to protect the people of Providence, we need to be able to protect the youth of color in Providence.”
The Providence Community Safety Act is a city-wide proposed ordinance that aims to hold police accountable and make communities safer. Developed by community members and organizations who are frustrated with police harassment and lack of accountability, the CSA has 12 key points that outline how police officers should interact with community members. These points range from video recording to traffic stops to the gang database.