The Providence Executive Review Authority is calling on the city council and mayor to fund a civilian review of  police training academy materials, the department’s use of force policy, and military equipment purchased over the last 20 years. 

During a meeting held remotely Wednesday evening, the group’s executive director, Jose Batista, said the recommendations are aimed at preventing deaths at the hands of police. 

And when you have the allegations that we’ve heard recently -- with a man losing his eye with a projectile, and a man being punched when he’s handcuffed -- those things sound a little too close to those tragic situations that we’ve seen around the country, and we want to prevent it from going forward,” Batista commented.

PERA is pushing for the agency’s budget to increase to 2% of the police department’s budget. In the 2020 fiscal year, the police department’s budget stood at $85.6 million, whereas $340,190 was allocated to PERA. Mayor Jorge Elorza’s proposed FY 21 budget would increase the police department’s budget to $88.0 million, and PERA’s budget to  $583,177. 

The agency is also asking to be notified of all misconduct complaints against police officers.

Since last spring, PERA has received 30 complaints, and voted to investigate 12 of these. Members expressed frustration that police officers had failed to turn on body cameras in a majority of cases, making investigation of complaints more difficult.  

Activist Justice Gaines was among community members who testified, pressing PERA to seek more significant changes, including defunding and abolishing the police department. 

“Cameras capturing violence against us does not save our lives,” Gaines said. “And so when we’re talking about what it means to change policing in Providence, when we’re talking about what community safety means in Providence, we need to turn this conversation around from, ‘How do we make the police better?’ And start divesting funds from a failed system.”

During the meeting, Batista also presented data on traffic stops from 2016 that showed Black and Hispanic drivers were stopped more frequently than white drivers. He also noted that, according to the analysis performed by Central Connecticut University, Black and Hispanic drivers were stopped more frequently for equipment-related violations, such as a broken taillight, and that Black and Hispanic drivers who were stopped were significantly more likely to be arrested.

This story has been corrected to indicate that PERA has voted to investigate 12 of the 30 complaints it has received so far. These investigations have not been completed.