Ten years after Rhode Island law began requiring police departments to post online their police complaint forms and procedures, some departments are still not in compliance with some of the law’s basic requirements, a report issued today by the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island has found. The requirement, contained in the Racial Profiling Prevention Act of 2004, was designed to make it easier for victims of police misconduct to file complaints with departments. Over the years, some police officials have cited the rarity of complaints they receive to minimize claims about the prevalence of racial profiling or other misconduct.
The ACLU of RI report reviewed the websites of all municipal police departments and the State Police to determine if the departments had posted online their police complaint forms and procedures, a requirement of the 2004 law. The report is an update to the ACLU’s similar 2007 review of online complaint forms that found almost half of the police departments in the state had failed to post online their police complaint forms or procedures. While some departments have improved their practices, the latest report said the results “remain disheartening.”
The report found:
The ACLU report concluded that given the ease by which these documents can be posted online that “it is eye-opening – and disheartening – to discover that too many fail to meet even minimal standards to make the process user-friendly.”
The report called on police departments to review their websites to ensure compliance with the law, remove problematic elements from their complaint forms and procedures, and ensure their complaint process is explained thoroughly. The report concluded that “if police departments are serious about their desire to receive feedback from the community, and to aggressively address issues of police misconduct and racial profiling, adjusting their complaint procedures and forms is a small, relatively simple step toward facilitating the filing of complaints.”
A copy of the report, “Public Access to Police Complaint Forms and Procedures: An Update,” along with the ACLU’s earlier 2007 report, is available here.