PROVIDENCE — Representative Raymond A. Hull, a Black Providence police sergeant who just became deputy speaker of the state House of Representatives, says he expects the General Assembly to revamp the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights this year.
“This is the year, and this is the time,” Hull said on the Rhode Island Report podcast. “Something has to be done. There has to be some reform, and it’s going to be not some Band-Aid either. And I will tell you that I will be on something that really effectively makes some changes in policing.”
When George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer in May 2020, advocates called for overhauling or repealing the Rhode Island law, known as LEOBOR, that dictates how police departments around the state deal with police officer misconduct. No changes have been made since then.
But the death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of Memphis police officers has renewed the push to revamp LEOBOR. And Hull said he expects legislative action this year “because it’s still in the forefront of what we see every day — it’s not changing.”
He noted that while many high-profile cases of police brutality have involved white officers assaulting Black people, the five police officers charged in the death of Nichols are Black. “So it’s policing that needs to actually change,” he said, “And come to some reality that, ‘Hey, it’s not working the old way.’ ”
Senator Tiara Mack, a progressive Providence Democrat, and others have called for repealing the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights in its entirety.
“Well, it’s an idea,” Hull said of repealing LEOBOR. “Do I necessarily agree with it? Probably not at this point, unless, of course, it gets to a point where nobody can come to an understanding. If we have to start from scratch, we start from scratch. But I don’t necessarily think we need to go to zero. But something has to be done.”
The Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns has made reforming LEOBOR one of its top priorities. For example, the group is asking the Assembly for the ability to hand out longer suspensions to police officers accused of wrongdoing (currently anything longer than two days can trigger a LEOBOR hearing) and to expand the panel that hears police disciplinary cases (up from the current three members).
But Hull said the most important change he wants to see involves allowing police chiefs or municipal leaders to discuss certain officer disciplinary cases publicly without jeopardizing an internal investigation.
“People only want to know what’s going on, and they look to that leader,” he said, adding that it’s important for leaders to be able to speak out and “calm” situations.
Hull, a Providence Democrat who was first elected to the House in November 2010, said he is “pro-life” and would vote against the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act as a stand-alone bill that would provide abortion coverage for Medicaid recipients and state employees.
But he noted that Governor Daniel J. McKee, a Democrat, has included funding for the measure in his state budget proposal, $592,405 to provide abortion coverage to residents enrolled in Medicaid and another $29,500 to add abortion coverage to the state employee health insurance plan.
And Hull said he plans to vote for the budget. “I have some difficulties personally, but I do know if it’s in the budget, it will pass in the budget,” he said.
Hull is replacing Representative Charlene M. Lima as deputy speaker. Lima, a Cranston Democrat, has said House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, a Warwick Democrat, told her she was “too independent on issues.” She had voted against major bills such as legislation limiting gun magazine capacity to 10 rounds and the Act on Climate, which made the state’s goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions mandatory and enforceable.
Hull said he voted for both of those bills. “We’re coming to a crisis in our country,” he said in explaining why he backed the Act on Climate. “Carbon emissions, global warming — it’s no joke, you know? So if I can do my little bit, that’s why I voted with it.”
On the podcast, Hull also talked about his past interactions with Nicholas Alahverdian, a former Rhode Island child welfare advocate who faked his own death and is now pretending to be an Irish orphan named Arthur Knight as he faces extradition on rape charges.
To get the latest episode each week, follow Rhode Island Report podcast on Apple Podcasts and other podcasting platforms, or listen in the player above.