Rhode Island

What to do here

Click a "Get Template" button to get an email template about a specific issue. Edit the template to connect on a more personal level with your lawmaker. See the Contacting Logistics page for information about how to write an effective email to your lawmakers. Get your lawmakers' emails with the search box to the right. Send the email!

Be sure to check out the Next Steps at the bottom of the page. Go to the References/Further Reading page to see our sources and do some research of your own.

Last updated Jan. 20, 2020

Summary

Key:

Legislation Achieved

Some Progress

No Progress

  • Demilitarization

    Yes
    Yes
    Yes
    Yes

    No knock warrants
    1033 program
    Military-style training
    SWAT data

    Rhode Island a

  • For Profit Policing

    Yes
    Yes
    Yes
    Yes

    Civil asset forfeiture
    Quotas
    Cost of misconduct

    Rhode Island b

  • Broken Windows Policing

    Minor offenses
    Objective justification for stops
    Reporting stop details

    Rhode Island c

  • Accountability

    Yes
    Yes
    Yes
    Yes

    Reckless civil rights violation
    Independent investigation
    Qualified immunity

    Rhode Island d

  • Reinvesting in Communities

    Mental health response

    Education, housing, and community health resources

    Rhode Island e

Demilitarization

Learn about demilitarization and the specific issues below on the Demilitarization page (opens in a new window).

 

No knock warrants

No Progress:

Rhode Island has not yet enacted a law eliminating the use of no-knock warrants. In 2020, Rep Anastasia Williams sponsored H 8036 to make changes to the officer’s bill of rights, including the ban on no-knock warrants. This bill died in committee.

1033 purchases

No Progress:

Rhode Island has not yet enacted a law ending its participation in programs that facilitate the transfer of military weapons from the federal government to police departments.

Military style training

Some Progress:

The Rhode Island Police Chief's Association has committed to 'Twenty for 2020'--redoubling a statewide focus on training, transparency, communication and human rights. Several of these initiatives aim to connect police officers more deeply with their community, breaking down the military mentality of policing.

SWAT data

No Progress:

Rhode Island has not yet enacted a law requiring the recording and cataloging of SWAT team use.

For Profit Policing

Learn about for profit policing and the specific issues below on the For Profit Policing page (opens in a new window).

 

Civil asset forfeiture

No Progress:

Rhode Island has not yet enacted a law ending civil asset forfeiture. The state has incredibly detailed and strict seizure and forfeiture laws. Most personal property and assets can be seized if they are connected to a suspected crime. The burden of proof remains on the citizen as well. In 2020, Sen. Metts is sponsored S2754, which aims to reform the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws to prevent Rhode Islanders from having their property unfairly seized or from facing an uphill battle to get them back when no crime has been proven. The bill died in committee.

Quotas

Some Progress:

A 2010 Rhode Island law explicitly prohibited the practice of making ticket quotas. However, reports in 2017 indicate that local departments still utilize this practice.

Cost of misconduct

No Progress:

Rhode Island has not yet enacted a law requiring police departments (not state general funds) to cover the cost of misconduct.

Broken Windows Policing

Learn about broken windows policing and the specific issues below on the Broken Windows Policing page (opens in a new window).

 

Minor offenses

Some Progress:

In 2013, possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by an individual 18 years or older was amended from a criminal misdemeanor to a non-arrestable civil offense, punishable by a $150 fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. In 2017, Rhode Island passed legislation that allows those who have subsequently decriminalized crimes on their record to petition that those crimes be expunged--further lifting the burden of a criminal record.

Objective justification for stops

Some Progress:

Rhode Island prohibits pedestrian stops unless reasonable suspicion or probable cause of criminal activity exists. Rhode Island needs to change the language to "objective justification" and define this language.

Reporting stop details

Some Progress:

Rhode Island requires every stop that does not result in criminal charges to be documented in a police-generated report and collects data on racial disparities/racial profiling in stops.

Accountability

Learn about accountability and the specific issues below on the Accountability page (opens in a new window).

 

Reckless civil rights violation

No Progress:

Rhode Island has not yet enacted a law lowering the prosecution requirement from ‘willful’ to ‘reckless’ deprivation of another’s rights.

Independent investigation

Some Progress:

Independent: In December 2020, AG Peter Neronha created a four-person team of investigators to handle all civil rights complaints that reach his office. However, the creation of this group does not institutionalize independent investigation because agencies are not required to hand all misconduct cases over to the AG for review.

Qualified immunity

No Progress:

Rhode Island has not yet enacted a law ending qualified immunity.

Reinvesting in Communities

Learn about reinvesting in communities and the specific issues below on the Reinvesting in Communities page (opens in a new window).

 

Mental health response

No Progress:

Rhode Island has not yet enacted a law creating and funding a mental health task force available to respond to crisis calls (in lieu of police). Though law enforcement officers must receive training on mental health and substance abuse emergencies, police are still dispatched to handle mental health crisis situations. Five South County police departments, the first in Rhode Island to create specially trained crisis intervention teams, received federal recognition in July 2020 with a $100,000 grant to support new approaches when called to aid people with mental health conditions.

Education, Housing, Community Health Resources

No Progress:

It is important to note that policing does not address the roots of social disadvantage and barriers to (economic) opportunity that often lead to crime. Nor should police be burdened with that responsibility.
Without access to quality resources in healthcare, education, and housing, our cities, neighborhoods, and families will continue to suffer. We should instead reassess the budgets of the state government and reinvest in the services that matter most.

Next Steps

No matter what, register to vote:

Contacting officials is just one piece of the puzzle we can't stop there. We need to make sure our elected officials reflect our values and support reform at every level of government. Register here:

To keep these policies at the forefront:

Keep emailing about them (if you just finished the 5 Days Challenge, keep up the schedule—set reminders in your phone to email about each issue on its specific day).

To ask for more than this:

Use our templates as a model to ask for bigger changes. Color for Change and The Movement for Black Lives both have specific policy related to a reimagined law enforcement system. If you think there are additional policies we ought to consider, send your thoughts our way.

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