Providence PASSES the Groundbreaking ‘Community Safety Act’ (Newly renamed Providence Community – Police Relations Act)
On Thursday June 1, the Providence City Council chamber erupted with cheers as the council voted to pass the Providence Community-Police Relations Act (formerly the Community Safety Act). The vote was 13-1. The ordinance bans racial profiling and profiling based on gender identity, place limits on police searches and surveillance, limit police collusion with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and further protect the rights of immigrants, youth, and people of color. It also creates pathways for the community to hold the police accountable to the community.
“The Community Safety Act is an incredible victory for and by the people of Providence,” said Vanessa Flores-Maldonado, STEP UP Network Campaign Coordinator. “The CSA was crafted by the people, and the people have continued to fight and overcome countless obstacles in the past four years that sought to silence us. Today is proof that the people will be heard and that communities can succeed on our own terms.”
The ordinance passed the first vote unanimously with a vote of 12-0 and was expected to easily pass the second vote on April 27. But the ordinance was tabled when the Fraternal Order of Police strenuously objected to passage. The Council tabled a vote until June 1 and established a Working Group of Councilors, police, city administrators and community members to resolve these issues. After five meetings, the working group approved language changes that resolved those differences and all present) agreed to not oppose the ordinance with its new language. That new language has been adopted by the Ordinance Committee and becomes the final language of the ordinance.
Thursday’s vote is the culmination of many years of work for local activists. Almost five years ago, community groups began a process to create policing policies that would be more reflective of community values and address abuses experienced by many people of color. They created the STEP-UP Network, which led workshops with youth, listened to the concerns of parents of children of color, researched best practices of police departments across the country, and drafted an ordinance that was submitted to the Providence City Council on June 19th, 2014. That version had eight co-sponsors: Jackson, Aponte, Castillo, Sanchez, Solomon, Matos, Jennings, and Correia.
“Where I lived there were always cops wrongfully targeting someone because of who they hung out with and what they look like. I don’t want people in my community targeted because of a police’s bad day” said Tommy Svay of the Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM).
Since then STEP-UP Network continued to educate, protest, promote, and push for action by the City Council, garnering support from Councilwoman Mary Kay Harris and Councilman Kevin Jackson.
The result was an ordinance revised multiple times, that addresses numerous aspects of policing and models ways in which people can hold police accountable to the communities they’re supposed to serve. Key points of the CSA can be viewed here.
Young people across the city celebrated the ordinance’s likely passage. “I support the Community Safety Act, because I have witnessed that police are not being held accountable in my community,” said Jorrell KayKay, of PrYSM. “I also realized that it takes the community to hold police and the city accountable after spending four years of my high school life trying to push the CSA into law. This is such a big victory to me!”
Though the immediate impacts of the act will only be local, the CSA’s proponents believe its implications are national in scope. “At a time when we’re seeing a return to failed ‘tough on crime’ policies at the national level, Providence is poised to pass some of the most progressive community safety provisions in the country,” said Martha Yager of the American Friends Service Committee. “We believe that the CSA can be a model for what local and state governments can do to prevent racial profiling, and instead protect the safety and human rights of all people.”
The video recording of the council meeting will be available at www.rifuture.org a few hours after the vote.
The STEP UP Network includes Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE), the Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM), Olneyville Neighborhood Association (ONA), and the American Friends Service Committee – South East New England (AFSC-SENE)