Seven organizations today sent a letter to Providence Commissioner of Public Safety Steven Pare, criticizing the city police department’s plans to engage in an aggressive “stop and frisk” program in response to a recent spate of gun violence in the city. Deploring the racial profiling inherent in such police practices, the groups’ letter stated: “Stepping up the humiliating and dehumanizing questioning and frisking of our minority youth without cause is a simplistic approach to a complex problem and one that we believe will do more harm than good.”
The organizations signing on to the letter were: Providence Youth Student Movement, Direct Action for Rights and Equality, Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Youth in Action, Rhode Island Public Defender, American Friends Service Committee - South East New England, and the Rhode Island ACLU.
Below is the text of the letter:
"Our organizations are very concerned about the gun violence taking place on Providence’s city streets. We are also profoundly concerned about the deep-rooted problem of racial profiling that plagues those same streets. We were therefore extremely disappointed and distressed to read comments in today’s Providence Journal that, in order to deal with the first problem, the police department plans to exacerbate the latter one. Specifically, the article notes that city police plan to engage in ‘more vehicle stops for minor infractions...which can lead to questions from the police and frisking.’ This approach is, we believe, very short-sighted.
“We don’t wish to minimize the difficulties faced by police in dealing with the proliferation of guns, but practices that only increase the harassment that innocent black, Latino and Southeast Asian teenagers already face on a daily basis from police officers is no solution. The news story notes that witnesses were believed to be at the scene of the most recent gun murder, but have not come forward. There may be many reasons for this, including fear of retaliation, but a lack of trust between residents of the community and the police is surely an important part of it as well. Intensified stop-and-frisk practices only deepen that mistrust.
“Stepping up the humiliating and dehumanizing questioning and frisking of our minority youth without cause is a simplistic approach to a complex problem and one that we believe will do more harm than good. We strongly urge you to reconsider and reject this strategy.”