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4/6/2023 Rep. Stewart introduces legislation to repeal Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights
STATE HOUSE — Rep. Jennifer Stewart (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket) has introduced legislation (2023-H 5567) that would repeal the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.

The controversial law, which exists in at least 13 states either through enactment or contract, has come under close scrutiny in recent years in the wake of several incidents, including fatalities of those who were in police custody.

“I’m aware of the hazards of police work. My own father retired from the Chicago Police Department where he, like many officers, faced many difficulties and was under a lot of stress. The fact is that police officers already have a bill of rights — the same one that all of us have — and it guarantees the same due process of law that everyone in this country enjoys,” said Representative Stewart. “Having a separate set of rules that pertains only to police officers is unfair and makes it impossible to discipline or remove bad cops. Our social contract in this country is predicated on the notion that the law ought to be the same for everybody, whether it protects or whether it punishes.”

The law has been under fire for years, perceived as an instrument to keep police officers from facing any accountability for their actions. Maryland, the first state to have a Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, repealed the law two years ago. Rhode Island is the only New England state to have this law.

The House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on the legislation on Tuesday, where Representative Stewart testified, saying, “This repeal bill is pro-rule of law. Outside of this role in the State House that I began this year, I teach teenagers U.S. history and political science. I have done so for over 20 years because I care about democracy and that we work to realize its aspirational principles which include rule of law.”

“The badge was meant to be a symbol of the absolute highest public trust — one where we all put our lives in the hands of highly trained professionals,” said Representative Stewart. “But the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights has blasted that trust to its foundation, creating a class of citizen that is not only unaccountable, but above the law. It has effectually turned that badge into a hunting license. And it has led to tragedy.”

Similar legislation (2023-S 0360) has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Tiara Mack (D-Dist. 6, Providence).

For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903