Police union wants city to reject anti-profiling measure

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Leaders of the state’s largest city tabled a sweeping new proposal to ban discriminatory profiling by police on Thursday, prompting loud protests from the measure’s supporters.

The Providence City Council was expected to pass the proposed anti-profiling ordinance but instead voted 9-5 to delay it until June 1.

Shouting inside the City Hall chambers drowned out council members, while some police officers high-fived each other in the hallway. The delay came a day after the city’s police union sent a scathing letter describing the measure as a “slap in the face” to officers in the 400-member force.

The measure also would limit the use of electronic surveillance and a gang database and would establish strict controls on police in the city, which has about 175,000 residents.

The council had already approved it on a 12-0 vote last week, but it required a second vote. One member was absent on Thursday.

Democratic Mayor Jorge Elorza has said he would sign the measure into law if the council passed it.

Among the police union’s concerns is a provision requiring that the names of people on a gang list be removed if, after two years, those listed haven’t had any criminal convictions or other qualifying evidence that would justify their inclusion in the database.

Democratic City Council President Luis Aponte said before the meeting that the proposal has gone through three years of vetting and negotiation. He said some of the concerns from the Providence Fraternal Order of Police were based on factual errors.

But Thursday night he said tabling the proposal would give time for more stakeholders to weigh in.

The state’s attorney general, Peter Kilmartin, also has expressed concerns about the ordinance, which he said could hamper police officers. But Kilmartin, a Democrat and a former police officer in neighboring Pawtucket, showed no signs of heeding a councilwoman’s request for him to provide a formal opinion.

The proposal would provide protections based on race, gender identity, English-language ability, political affiliation, housing status and medical conditions. It would give more power to a civilian review board and bar the arrest of someone whose only crime is driving without a license.

People subjected to any violation of the ordinance would be allowed to sue for damages. The union accused “anti-police” attorneys and radical activists of being behind the effort.