The Rhode Island Senate voted 35 to 0 today to approve legislation that reforms the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights.
The legislation, 2024-S-2096, sponsored by President of the Senate Dominick J. Ruggerio, is similar to legislation the Senate passed late in the session last year. The bill is the culmination of years of study, collaboration and refinement. It reflects the recommendations of a 2020 Senate Commission that brought together stakeholders from all sides of the issue and voted overwhelmingly that LEOBOR should be maintained in statute but reformed.
“I am grateful to the many stakeholders from all sides of this issue who have worked over the past several years to develop and refine this legislation,” said President Ruggerio. “While there will be some who say this bill goes too far and others who say it doesn’t go far enough, I think the bill strikes a responsible balance that brings necessary and appropriate reforms to LEOBOR. Throughout this process, we who worked on it in the Senate sought to both recognize the unique and dangerous work of the dedicated law enforcement officers who keep our communities safe and to improve the tools available so that those who violate the public trust can be held accountable. I look forward to working with the House to enact this necessary reform.”
The legislation expands the panel that adjudicates offenses from three law enforcement officers to a five-member panel consisting of:
A retired supreme, superior or district court judge appointed by the chief justice of the Supreme Court;
The executive director of the Nonviolence Institute; and
Three law enforcement officers selected at random from a pool of officers trained and certified in police discipline. No officer shall be selected if employed by the same department of the officer or charging law enforcement agency.
The legislation also increases the period of summary discipline – the period of unpaid suspension that can be levied without triggering the statutory protections of LEOBOR – from two to 14 work days.
The bill would also add additional transparency requirements into law, such as requiring public reports on LEOBOR cases.
“This bill is a product of compromise, and there are very divergent views about the best course forward,” noted President Ruggerio (D – Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence). “It 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.”
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