OP-ED

Law Enforcement Officers' Accountability Act must be passed

By ANASTASIA P. WILLIAMS
Posted 4/21/21

By ANASTASIA P. WILLIAMS Imagine being a mother in the inner city who is unable to sleep until she hears the door open, knowing that her adult children of color are safely home for the night. Not out of fear of accidents or unknown assailants, but out of

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OP-ED

Law Enforcement Officers' Accountability Act must be passed

Posted

Imagine being a mother in the inner city who is unable to sleep until she hears the door open, knowing that her adult children of color are safely home for the night. Not out of fear of accidents or unknown assailants, but out of fear from possible crimes perpetrated by the very people sworn to protect and uphold the law.

Imagine being a mother of color trying to assist an innocent young man being unlawfully assaulted by police, only to be beaten herself until her state representative badge fell out of her pocket. Only then did the attack cease.

This is the life I live, have lived, and will remain living as long as we continue to turn our heads away from the savagery and persecution that the community of color faces on a daily basis.

As our country is subjected to yet another horrifying snuff film of a young unarmed black man being gunned down by law enforcement, when will we say, “Enough is enough and really mean it?”

What can we do in Rhode Island to ensure that such crimes do not take place in our state, and if tragedy should strike within our borders, what can we do to make sure that fair and righteous justice is delivered and served?

It’s very simple – we must pass the Law Enforcement Officers’ Accountability Act that I introduced.

The bill is in response to years of failed justice for victims of color who have continuously been harassed, beaten, and killed at the hands of bad police officers. It would not be necessary if the bad apples of law enforcement had not and continue to be recruited, encouraged, condoned and protected for decades from any repercussions for their criminal and dehumanizing conduct, particularly against the vulnerable and the community of color.

While critics claim that this legislation will hamper the due process of accused police officers, I ask what about the due process, afforded by the Constitution of the United States, that is thrown in the trash every time a young person of color is unjustly harassed at best and at worst, needlessly killed by rogue law enforcement. Critics continuously talk about due process, but where was due process during the murders of Eric Garner, George Floyd, Brianna Taylor, and Daunte Wright?

Good cops, and there are many, have nothing to fear in relation to this bill, and frankly, I have little compassion for those who intentionally misuse and abuse the badge.

With the whole world finally standing up, recognizing, mobilizing, and protesting against the trials and tribulations that people of color suffer daily at the hands of unfit law enforcement officers, now is the time to reform our state’s law so that rogue cops can no longer hide behind a system of protection, while also dragging down good and honorable police officers who truly do protect and serve our communities without prejudice and bigotry in their hearts.

Transparency, accountability, and justice will finally be present in our state’s law enforcement system with the passage of this bill and I thank both my colleagues and the many other allies of fairness and justice, who are standing beside me in support of this essential public safety transformation. I urge the rest of the legislature and all of the Rhode Island’s citizens to rally around this most necessary and long overdue vital reform.

We have finally entered a new day when bad law enforcement will be rightfully and justly identified and punished, and with a camera in everyone’s pockets these days, rogue officers can no longer hide from accountability and justice. But, this new day of fairness, integrity and culpability will only be possible through the passage of this legislation.

Rep. Anastasia P. Williams, a Democrat, represents District 9 (Providence) in the Rhode Island House of Representatives.

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