Police Practice Issues The ACLU of Rhode Island is Involved With - Court Cases, Legislation, News Releases


Protecting Civil Liberties in Rhode Island for Over 50 Years


Police Practices

Police play an important role in working to protect and serve the public, yet abuses of police power continue to be a problem in Rhode Island and nationwide, particularly in low-income communities and in communities of color.  Years of traffic stop data in Rhode Island have demonstrated consistently that black and Hispanic drivers are twice as likely as white drivers to be stopped by police and searched, while white drivers are more likely to be found with contraband when searched.  The ACLU of Rhode Island has worked for many years as a part of a diverse coalition to advocate for the passage of comprehensive legislation to prevent racial profilingThe ACLU also works on various other police misconduct issues, such as those surrounding stop-and-frisk tactics, surveillance, brutality, and the withholding of public police records from citizens.

The ACLU of Rhode Island recently released a report, "The School-To-Prison Pipeline In Black And White," offers a brief but systematic examination of racial disparities in Rhode Island, and how those interconnected disparities can lead to a lifetime of unequal treatment. The report highlights numerous disparities, including those in traffic stop and search rates and arrest rates.

Police Misconduct in the News

  • Jan, 18, 2017: Settlement Reached in Lawsuit Against Woonsocket Police for Treatment of Deaf Detainee
  • Dec, 17, 2016: ACLU Asks City Council to Reject Police Body Cameras Without Strong Policies
  • Sep, 27, 2016: ACLU Statement on Providence Police Department Plans to Acquire Body Cameras

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Police Misconduct Related Court Cases

2016: Alves v. Woonsocket
Category: Active Case    Civil Rights    Discrimination    Rights of the Disabled    Police Practices    

A federal civil rights lawsuit filed in parternship with the R.I. Disability Law Center  on behalf of a profoundly deaf person who was arrested and detained overnight in jail by Woonsocket police for allegedly making an obscene gesture, and who was never provided an interpreter to allow him to communicate with the police during his detention. The case raises important issues regarding municipal agency obligations to accommodate residents who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The lawsuit argues that city officials violated plaintiff David Alves’s “statutory and constitutional rights by unlawfully arresting and detaining him, charging him with violating an unconstitutional City criminal ordinance, subjecting him to discrimination on account of his disability, and failing to accommodate his disability.”

Supporting Documents
2011: R.I. ACLU v. Department of Public Safety
Category: Open Government    Police Practices    

Lawsuit challenging the adoption of regulations by the State Police significantly limiting public access to arrest reports and other police records.

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