Police Practice Issues The ACLU of Rhode Island is Involved With - Court Cases, Legislation, News Releases


Protecting Civil Liberties in Rhode Island for Over 50 Years


Police Practices

Police generally protect and serve the public, but abuses of police power continue to be a problem in Rhode Island, particularly in low-income communities and in communities of color.  The ACLU works on various police misconduct issues, such as stop-and-frisk tactics, surveillance, police brutality, and withholding of public police records from citizens.

Police Misconduct in the News

  • Apr, 20, 2020: Black People in Ocean State 3.3 Times More Likely to be Arrested for Pot Possession than Whites
  • Mar, 05, 2020: ACLU Files Complaint Against Narragansett for Hiding Records of Police Misconduct
  • Jan, 20, 2020: ACLU Takes Legal Action over Unlawful Arrest of 13-Year-Old Honors Student

View All News Releases Related to Police Misconduct »

Police Misconduct Related Court Cases

2020: Johnson v. Pawtucket
Category: Active Case    Civil Rights    Criminal Justice    Discrimination    Racial/Ethnic Discrimination    Police Practices    Students' Rights    Youth Rights    

About this Case:
This is a legal claim for damages sent to the City of Pawtucket over a School Resource Officer’s (SRO) unlawful handcuffing and arrest of a 13-year-old African-American middle school honors student. The damages claim is a required legal prerequisite to the filing of a lawsuit on behalf of the student.

Current Status:
Claim filed in January 2020.

Cooperating Attorney:
Shannah Kurland

Supporting Documents
2019: Providence v. Barr
Category: Active Case    Discrimination    Racial/Ethnic Discrimination    Immigration    Police Practices    

About this Case:
This is a “friend of the court” brief, filed by the ACLU, in support of a legal challenge brought by the cities of Providence and Central Falls to a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) policy conditioning the receipt of federal law enforcement funds on municipal collaboration with immigration officials.

Current Status:
First Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the DOJ requirements in March 2020.

Cody Wofsy, Nicholas Trott Long

Supporting Documents

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Police Misconduct Related Legislation

State Police Computer System (H 7101, S 2080) Held for Further Study
Category: 2020    Police Practices    

After a shooting in Rhode Island highlighted interjurisdictional gaps in information among police departments, a bill (H 7101, S 2080) was introduced which would allow the state police to create a comprehensive, statewide records management program. While we did not take a position on the bill in concept, we suggested several amendments to the legislation which would strengthen privacy protections regarding the use of the database, including requirements similar to federal law which restrict the collection of information about First Amendment-protected activities and only allow for the collection of certain information if there is reasonable suspicion that an individual is involved in criminal conduct.