Sen. Jonathon Acosta and Rep. José F. Batista have introduced legislation to significantly reform current police practices and prevent misconduct.
The bill, the Rishod K. Gore Justice in Policing Act of 2021 (2021-S 0597, 2021-H 5993), would pave the way for critical reforms such instituting a statewide mandate for police body cameras, requiring that police intervene in and report severe misconduct by fellow officers, and opening the door to personal liability for police officers who engage in willful misconduct.
The bill is named for the young man at the center of a recent incident in Providence resulting in the March 18 assault conviction of a Providence police officer.
“The case involving Mr. Rishod Gore is a perfect case study for everything that is wrong with our criminal justice system in 2021. This bill aims to usher in once-in-a-generation reform to our policing practices, while providing to Mr. Gore the opportunity to reclaim the narrative and turn this horrific event into a positive for the community,” said Representative Batista (D-Dist. 12, Providence).
Senator Acosta and Representative Batista note that the Rishod Gore case, the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis last year, and the countless other well-documented cases of violent police misconduct in America clearly illustrate the urgency of the need for reform and more functional oversight of police.
“We need to put the ‘public’ back in ‘public oversight.’ Our tax dollars and the employees they fund should be transparent. Public dollars for public body cams should produce publicly accessible footage,” said Senator Acosta (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket).
In addition to requiring police officers around the state to use body or dash cameras, the Rishod K. Gore Justice in Policing Act:
Allows for the public release of resulting video footage
Requires departments to discipline officers found to have used excessive force
Puts some limits of the types of force police can use against protests and demonstrations
Allows civil action against police who commit rights violations, or who fail to intervene when they witness other police doing so, and eliminates qualified immunity for such violations
Requires police to try nonviolent means before force, and places limits on the use of force, like forbidding lethal force to apprehend those suspected of nonviolent or minor offenses
Bans chokeholds and makes it a felony for officers to use chokeholds, kick suspects in the head, or drive a car as a weapon toward a suspect
Requires police to intervene and report when other officers commit violations
Allows the attorney general to file civil action if they suspect police or other public officials are engaging in practices to deprive persons of rights.
Senator Acosta and Representative Batista, who represent Central Falls/Pawtucket and South Providence, respectively, said punitive parole and drug laws, as well as harsh policing tactics, are among the systematic problems that prevent poor people and poor neighborhoods from escaping poverty.
“Arrest and joblessness are cyclical, locking families and whole neighborhoods into generational poverty. We have to stop accepting this as something we can’t fix. We can fix this, but it requires the difficult work of acknowledging how and why our systems produce the results they do and reforming those systems from the bottom up,” said Representative Batista.
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