PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Providence City Council Finance Committee canceled a previously scheduled meeting for Wednesday night to discuss a proposal to rework the police department and its budget, amidst nationwide calls to defund police.
The meeting was canceled due to a family obligation, according to Chairman John Igliozzi. He said the meeting would likely be rescheduled for next week.
The Council Finance Committee held a public hearing on the city’s budget on June 22. After hearing 9 hours of testimony and suggestions on how the City should defund or take away programs from police, Igliozzi suggesting creating a “mobile crisis intervention unit.”
He based it off a model being used in Eugene, Oregon. Counselors or crisis managers would respond to emergency calls, rather than always sending an officer. Only if a situation escalated would police be called in.
Following that meeting, Igliozzi said in a statement, “Monday night, and into the early hours of Tuesday, we heard from more than 200 individuals that shared their fear, anguish, and concerns over the way police are called upon to handle crisis situations…Several of the 911 calls that our police department is called to answer are situations in which they are not necessarily trained to address. They are trained to deal with violent crimes, not mental health, and social service calls.”
Igliozzi said he would imagine this pilot program would be funded with money reallocated from other parts of public safety. He added that they had plans to cut the budget, and he had suggested delaying the police academy’s start, which is scheduled for February.
Amidst calls to defund the police are also demands to repeal or amend the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR) in Rhode Island, particularly because of the hearing process required in order to discipline or fire officers.
Among those arguing to amend LEOBOR is Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré. In an op-ed published in the Providence Journal early Wednesday morning, Commissioner Paré said the current bill gives too much power to potentially corrupt officers and not enough power to police chiefs.
“I believe in due process for everyone and have had many LEOBOR hearings both at the Rhode Island State Police and now with the Providence Police Department,” Paré wrote in the op-ed published in the Providence Journal. “Under the current process, it takes months to adjudicate, becomes a trial-like procedure and takes away the power from the police chief; but, more egregiously, it protects police officers who should clearly not be serving.”
“The Law Enforcement Officers’ Accountability Act provides for accountability, fairness, balance and due process and, most importantly, provides the police chief with increased oversight of the police department,” Paré continued.