Providence FOP 1, Community Activists 0, in Battle Over Community Safety Act

Friday, April 28, 2017



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Providence City Council Chamber

The second passage of an ordinance is supposed to be perfunctory, but Thursday afternoon’s special City Council meeting to give final passage of the Community Safety Act turned into a boisterous battle between community groups advocating for the new law and the Providence Fraternal Order of Police.

The Council voted 9-5 to hold the ordinance until the City Council’s meeting on June 1. There are two regularly scheduled Council meetings in May.

The FOP had been lobbying and cajoling Providence City Council members all week. 

"Providence Passes Ordinance Welcoming Gang Members To Their City"

Law Officer, a national police publication, wrote this past week:'

“While the politicians covered up the terrible provisions in this act by saying that it was simply designed to ‘curb profiling,’ what was really inside it will create one of the most lawless cities this country knows.

The violent crime rate in Providence is already 134% higher than the state average and the passing of this ordinance will be the best thing that Rhode Island criminals have seen in some time.”


There are rumors swirling that Providence Police Chief Huey Clements threatened to resign if the ordinance passed. While the Council had adopted the ordinance 12-0 on first passage, the Council’s pro coalition collapsed under the pressure of the FOP. Clements refused to respond to GoLocal's call on Thursday; he regularly refuses to answer direct questions about public safety issues.

In an effort to hold the Council’s majority together before the meeting, Council President Luis Aponte issued a statement on Thursday morning.

“The Community Safety Act (CSA) has been vetted through a highly collaborative 3-year process inclusive of the Providence Police Department and the people of Providence.  The CSA builds upon the best practices from our own police department by adopting legislation that has been proven effective in other cities across the country. Since the CSA was first introduced in 2014, the Providence City Council has solicited and received input from many organizations, including law enforcement officials and the police union," stated Aponte.

But by the time of the Council meeting started, some Council members were collapsing under the FOP’s pressure. 

In an email to GoLocal, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza said, “This version of the Community Safety Act is a product of the hard work of the Administration, the City Council, Public Safety officials, and most importantly, community members and advocates. This is one of the most comprehensive pieces of community-police relations legislation in the country. It not only positions Providence as a model for the nation, but helps to support the community policing efforts of our police department who protect and serve our city. I look forward to signing the CSA once passed by the full council and I am proud to have been a part of the process with the community."

Community Reaction

After the Council voted to place the ordinance on hold, many community activists took to social media criticizing the Council’s delay. Jobs with Justice’s Mike Araujo posted, “Profiles in Cowardice!”

And Ray Watson challenged East Side Councilman Sam Zurier,”… we'd like to know why you felt it wasn't time to vote on the CSA.”



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