The Rhode Island chapter of Moms Demand Action, part of Everytown for Gun Safety’s grassroots networks, released the following statement today in response to footage released by the Providence Police Department of officers using excessive force while apprehending three teenagers accused of using BB guns to shoot at people and buildings throughout the city of Providence. The footage, which captured the July arrest, shows the police brandishing their handguns at the teenagers, all between the ages of 15 and 16, inside a convertible before a large group of officers begin to converge, with some throwing the teenagers to the ground, repeatedly spitting at and punching them while they are restrained. One of the teens is shown not resisting the officers, and can be heard screaming, moaning, and crying during the violent scuffle. Two Providence police officers involved in the arrests are currently under active criminal investigation for their use of force.
“Law enforcement are charged with de-escalating violent situations, but in this instance, they have shirked that duty,” said Christine Bandoni, a volunteer with the Rhode Island chapter of Moms Demand Action. “Beating and spitting at children during an arrest is unacceptable and deeply disturbing behavior that fractures community trust in police and inhibits public safety in our state. These officers must be held accountable, and our lawmakers must act to change state laws that prevent accountability.”
In states like Rhode Island, police accountability is crucial to keeping communities safe and ensuring responsible police practices, especially given other recent instances of police violence. During the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers in the Rhode Island General Assembly introduced several bills that would increase police accountability, make the disciplinary process more transparent, and create stronger legal standards to prevent police violence, including:
- H 6152 / S 865, which would reform the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR) by renaming it the “Law Enforcement Officers’ Accountability Act”, expanding civilian involvement and oversight in the disciplinary process, allowing law enforcement agencies more ability to comment publicly on active investigations, and making other significant reforms;
- S.773, which would repeal LEOBOR in its entirety; and
- H 5993 / S 597, which would, among other things, create a statewide use-of-force standard, establishing a duty to report and intervene when officers use excessive force.
Lawmakers were unable to reach consensus on changes to LEOBOR before adjourning their legislative session, though legislative leaders indicated their desire to continue working on the bill in advance of a potential fall session.