Governor McKee Signs Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights Reform Legislation Into Law

In a significant move toward enhanced transparency and accountability in law enforcement, Governor Dan McKee signed the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR) reform legislation today during a ceremony held in the State Room. He was joined by Lt. Governor Sabina Matos, House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick), Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence), and Representative Raymond Hull (D-Dist. 6, Providence, North Providence), who were key sponsors of the bill.

The ceremony also featured remarks from Senator Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport), North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi, representing the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns, and Warwick Chief of Police Colonel Bradford Connor, President of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association.

“Today’s bills answer the public’s call for greater transparency around potential police misconduct while safeguarding officers’ rights to due process,” stated Governor McKee. “By signing this legislation into law today, we have made sure that police chiefs can be more transparent with the public about misconduct investigations. It also ensures that chiefs have the tools they need to ensure accountability within their departments.”

Governor McKee highlighted the collaborative effort behind the reform. “In my State of the State, I reinforced the need for consensus and action on LEOBOR, and I am grateful to the Speaker and the Senate President for their leadership in bringing these reforms across the finish line. I thank all the legislators, members of law enforcement, and stakeholders who worked collaboratively to deliver this bill.”

The LEOBOR reform legislation, several years in the making, introduces substantial changes to the existing framework. It expands the membership of a police misconduct hearing committee from three to five, adding a retired justice or judge from the Supreme Court and an attorney. The three police officers serving on the committee must be randomly selected from a list of those who have completed training in disciplinary action. The attorney must be selected by the chief justice in consultation with the Supreme Court’s committee on racial and ethnic fairness and the Rhode Island Bar Association’s committee on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Other notable reforms include a two-tier system for suspensions without pay, increasing the maximum for lesser offenses to five days and for more severe offenses to 14 days. In criminal cases, officers who plead guilty, enter an Alford plea, or plead nolo contendere to a felony charge will be dismissed by law enforcement.

The legislation also enhances transparency, allowing police chiefs to make public statements and release video evidence for serious offenses before a decision is rendered. Additionally, the Rhode Island Police Officers Commission on Standards and Training must publish the status of all pending misconduct hearings and any decision, order, or action indicating an officer’s guilt on its website.

Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi expressed pride in the collaborative effort. “Both chambers have been working on this issue for over two years with the goals of achieving due process, accountability, and transparency,” he said. “The status quo is unacceptable, and these bills create a framework to address police misconduct.”

Senate President Dominick Ruggerio acknowledged the balance struck by the bill. “While some will say this bill goes too far and others not far enough, I think the bill strikes a responsible balance that brings necessary and appropriate reforms to LEOBOR,” Ruggerio stated. “This bill is a reasonable, responsible compromise developed over the course of several years and consistent with the recommendations of the Senate study commission that intensively reviewed this issue.”

Deputy Speaker Raymond Hull emphasized the importance of restoring public trust. “This legislation will not only deliver transparency and accountability to the public, but it will also help police departments across the state root out misconduct in a fair and just way,” Hull said.

Mayor Charles Lombardi of North Providence and President of the R.I. League of Cities and Towns, lauded the collaboration behind the reform. “Addressing serious flaws in the system and improving transparency will greatly increase trust among members of the community,” Lombardi noted.

Colonel Bradford Connor, President of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association, highlighted the importance of public trust. “This new law increases transparency and will help us grow that trust,” Connor said. “We are grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with legislative leaders and community advocates on this legislation and to have a true voice in this legislative process.”

The LEOBOR reform legislation will take effect on January 1, 2025, marking a new chapter in law enforcement accountability in Rhode Island.




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