Calls to repeal Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights gain momentum


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Providence’s African American Ambassadors Group is joining the growing group of people asking the state to repeal of Rhode Island’s Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBOR).

Supporters tell 12 News repealing LEOBOR would give police chiefs the authority to take appropriate action to officer offenses. So far, 32 states across the country have repealed LEOBOR.

Suzette Cook told 12 News in March 2013 her son was brutalized by police.

“I struggle with not being able to understand why the officers, which there were several of them, that beat my son beyond recognition on a basic routine traffic stop,” Cook said.

She said police kicked her son, beat him with a flashlight, dragged and Maced him. Not even two weeks later, one of the officers involved received a promotion, according to Cook.

“These are the things that are unacceptable,” she said.

That’s why she, along with Sen. Tiara Mack, is urging state lawmakers to repeal LEOBOR.

“This can be done and it needs to be done,” Mack said. “Right now, Rhode Island is the only New England state with such a bill on its books.”

LEOBOR was passed in 1976 and triggers a hearing before a three-member panel if a police chief disciplines an officer for anything above a two-day suspension. There are also rules that help determine what is and isn’t shared with the public.

The repeal would strip both of those away.

“Repealing the LEOBOR isn’t about punishing or abolishing cops necessarily,” Justice Ameer Gaines, the spokesperson for Providence’s African American Ambassadors Group said. “It’s about making sure the folks in our society who we give the most authority to interact with us daily also have the most accountability.”

The Rhode Island Police Chiefs Organization responded to the group’s call to action by saying they are actively participating in discussions about reforming LEOBOR, but aren’t necessarily considering repealing it.

“It is insulting when people tell us that justice can’t happen right now, that we have to wait,” Mack said. “We waited an entire summer to see the systems change and they didn’t.”

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza formed the African American Ambassadors Group for the city to improve transparency and accountability.

In a statement, the mayor said he supports repealing LEOBOR. He said it places unnecessary hurles on police chiefs’ abilities to discipline their members and limits what information can be made available to the public.

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