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Shekarchi says no consensus on police misconduct bill

But the House Speaker vows to keep working on changes to the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, perhaps in fall session

Protesters hung a "Black Lives Matter" banner on the statue of Major General Nathanael Greene outside the Rhode Island State House last year.
Protesters hung a "Black Lives Matter" banner on the statue of Major General Nathanael Greene outside the Rhode Island State House last year.Edward Fitzpatrick/The Boston Globe

PROVIDENCE — The General Assembly is not expected to change the law for disciplining police officers during this legislative session, House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi said Tuesday.

Representative Anastasia P. Williams, a Providence Democrat, introduced a bill to overhaul the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR), which dictates how departments around the state deal with police officer misconduct, following an outcry over the killing of George Floyd.

And last week during, a taping of the Globe’s Rhode Island Report podcast, Shekarchi had said he was hoping to pass a LEOBOR bill before this session, which is expected to end on Thursday.

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But on Tuesday, Shekarchi issued a statement saying, “It appears we can’t reach consensus in the House on reforming LEOBOR before we finish our legislative business this week. I pledge to continue to work hard on this important issue, and if we have a fall session, I hope we can have a resolution then.”

The legislation introduced by Williams would rename the law to the Law Enforcement Officers’ Accountability Act while expanding the size of the panel in charge of disciplinary action and increasing the length of suspensions without pay.

Harrison Tuttle, executive director of the Black Lives Matter Rhode Island PAC, said it was disappointing to hear that consensus could not be reach on the policing bill.

“The conversation around police accountability has been a topic of discussion for more than a year,” he said. “It seems to be the trend that issues around Black and Brown communities, such as the marijuana legalization legislation and LEOBOR, are getting delayed or are not reaching consensus.”

Tuttle said the political action committee favors repealing LEOBOR under legislation introduced by state Senator Tiara Mack, a Providence Democrat. “Police brutality and systemic issues repeat themselves,” he said. “Issues like (Floyd’s death) will continue to happen unless they are addressed. So I don’t expect the movement to die down.”

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While Tuesday’s news was disappointing, Tuttle said, “I would much rather the right decision be made later than nothing be done. At least this is going to be looked at later in the year.”

Governor Daniel J. McKee said there had been “good movement” on the LEOBOR bill involving the police chiefs association, the police union, and the General Assembly. “I am disappointed that we don’t have an improvement there,” he said. “I supported that move.”

But the issue could be revisited in a potential fall session or next year, McKee said. “We don’t want to lose momentum on that,” he said. “The parties really did work together to try to address an issue that needs to be addressed, which is accountability with our policing.”


Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.