PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Leaders of the state’s largest city tabled a sweeping new proposal to ban discriminatory profiling by police on Thursday, prompting loud protests from the measure’s supporters.
The Providence City Council was expected to pass the proposed anti-profiling ordinance but instead voted 9-5 to delay that until June 1 to allow more input on it.
Booing and chanting inside the City Hall chambers drowned out council members, while some police officers high-fived each other in the hallway. The delay came a day after the city’s police union sent a scathing letter describing the measure as a “slap in the face” to officers in the 400-member force.
The measure also would limit the use of electronic surveillance and a gang database and would establish strict controls on how police conduct traffic and pedestrian stops in the city, which has nearly 180,000 residents. And it would strengthen existing sanctuary city policies preventing police from helping to enforce federal civil immigration law.
The all-Democrat council had already approved it on a 12-0 vote last week, but it required a second vote. One member was absent on Thursday.
Democratic Mayor Jorge Elorza has said he would sign the measure into law if the council passed it.
Among the police union’s concerns is a provision requiring that the names of people on a gang list be removed if, after two years, those listed haven’t had any criminal convictions or other qualifying evidence that would justify their inclusion in the database.
Democratic City Council President Luis Aponte said before the meeting that the proposal has gone through three years of vetting and negotiation. He said some of the concerns from the Providence Fraternal Order of Police were based on factual errors.
But Thursday night he said tabling the proposal would give time for more stakeholders to weigh in.
The state’s attorney general, Peter Kilmartin, also has expressed concerns about the ordinance, which he said could hamper police officers. But Kilmartin, a Democrat and a former police officer in neighboring Pawtucket, showed no signs of heeding a councilwoman’s request for him to provide a formal opinion.
The proposal would provide protections based on race, gender identity, English-language ability, political affiliation, housing status and medical conditions. It would give more power to a civilian review board and bar the arrest of someone whose only crime is driving without a license.
People subjected to any violation of the ordinance would be allowed to sue for damages. The union said “anti-police” attorneys and “radical” activists were behind the effort.
Aponte, the council president, said he was disappointed that a “false dichotomy” had been created suggesting people are either pro-police or in favor of the proposed ordinance.
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