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
- 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
- Nov, 21, 2019: ACLU Settles Suit Against N. Smithfield Police for Falsely Labeling Resident “Unstable,” “Dangerous”
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.
Claim filed in January 2020.
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.
First Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the DOJ requirements in March 2020.
Cody Wofsy, Nicholas Trott Long
- The Amicus Brief (November 2019)
- District Court Decision (June 2019)
- 1st Circuit Decision (March 2020)
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.