Community Safety Act To Get Full Providence City Council Vote

Apr 18, 2017

The Providence City Council Ordinance Committee voted 5-0 to send the lengthy ordinance, known as the Community Safety Act, to the full council for a vote. 

This comes after more than two years of debate between activists and Providence law enforcement.

During Monday’s meeting, Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare asked the council to hold off on sending the ordinance to a full council vote, before it was reviewed by the Attorney General’s office. Vanessa Flores-Maldonado, spokeswoman for the STEP UP coalition group of CSA supporters, urged the councilors to push the ordinance through.

Over the weekend, supporters, members of the Providence Police, City Council, representatives from the Mayor’s office, and members of the city’s legal team, gathered to iron out the kinks, ahead of the Monday ordinance committee meeting.

Among the changes is the specific inclusion that transgender and gender non-conforming individuals have the right to indicate their preference to be searched by a male or female officer. The ordinance also now includes the provision that a violation of the ordinance alone cannot justify suppression of evidence in a criminal proceeding.

Providence-area activists have gathered at public hearings, and stormed community meetings since 2014 demanding support from elected officials for the ordinance. The group says relations with Providence police and the community have deteriorated, and that residents do not feel safe.

The ordinance codifies into law anti-discrimination and anti-profiling policies, using specific language that supporters says will protect people on the basis of race, gender identity, and sexual orientation among other factors.

But Providence Police long objected to many of the far-reaching provisions, saying they would hamper investigations and standard police work. Commissioner Pare says he and his office are satisfied with the changes made. The ordinance is currently being reviewed by the Attorney General’s office.

The Community Safety Act could appear before the full City Council as early as this week. Under Providence City Council rules the ordinance must pass twice. In a statement released Monday, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza indicated he would sign the ordinance, should it reach his desk. If passed, the ordinance would take effect January, 2018.