Governor Gina Raimondo has signed legislation that requires local police departments to collect and report data on race and traffic stops. The data must be submitted to the State Department of Transportation each year.
State Representative Joseph Almeida (D-Providence), who has been trying to get similar legislation passed since 1999, said the bill represents one step towards addressing Civil Rights issues in the state.
“It’s a victory, but as I said before this is not over, there’s more issues that we need to fight," Almeida said. "But it shows the people, especially the community of color, that if we stick together, we’re organized, and we’re ready to come forward up here, we can get a lot done.”
The bill also bans police from searching pedestrians without probable cause of criminal activity. It comes in the aftermath of civil unrest in Providence and other cities following the police shooting of a young black man in Ferguson, Missouri last year.
That incident and several others sparked a national debate over police treatment of minority residents.
A USA Today review of data from 2011-2012 found that police departments in Rhode Island arrested blacks at even higher rates than those recorded in Ferguson, Missouri.
The ACLU in Rhode Island has found significant disparities in the rates of incarceration and school suspensions for residents of color.
At the bill signing, Governor Raimondo hailed the new measures as a sign the state is serious about addressing these inequities.
“What this bill says is we’re committed to making changes based on facts, and making sure that our streets are safe as possible, and we’re protecting everybody’s Civil Rights in the process,” said Raimondo.