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ACLU: Warwick PD Has Improved Complaint Info — But Can Still Do More

The Warwick Police Department took a mix of credit and criticism from the ACLU for how it provides information on complaints.
The Warwick Police Department took a mix of credit and criticism from the ACLU for how it provides information on complaints.

Warwick, RI — The Warwick Police Department rated about mid-pack among law enforcement agencies in Rhode Island in the American Civil Liberty Union’s recent review of civilian complaint procedures.

Overall, the Warwick PD got credit for two of five criteria set by the ACLU for how well police departments follow a 2oo4 state law requiring publication of their complaint procedures: two for providing separate forms for complaints and how to file them; two more for offering complainants fax and mail options; and one for including the complaint information under a “prominent link” on the department’s website.

On the positive side, the ACLU survey found that Warwick has improved the way it handles complaints about police procedure — for example, by eliminating the prior requirement that people had to get complaint forms notarized before submitting them — and also noted that the department provides “great detail in describing exactly how the complaint process works and what complainants can expect from it.”

Read the 2014 Public Access to Police Complaint Forms and Procedures report by the ACLU.

Warwick also does not require social security numbers from complainants, as two other departments — Coventry and Warren — still do, which the ACLU said could potentially intimidate people.

However, the Warwick Police Department took knocks from the ACLU for how its website includes the complaint form under a heading titled “Professional Standards,” potentially confusing readers; and for how the department is one of 10 that does not offer “explicit mail or fax submission options” to potential complainants.

[By comparison, East Greenwich does not follow any of the requirements, the ACLU reported, while Coventry meets one and Cranston meets four of the five criteria. Only Burrillville, North Kingstown, and Warren met all five standards out of the 39 departments surveyed.]

The ACLU published its first review of police department complaint procedures in 2007, three years after the Rhode Island General Assembly passed the Racial Profiling Prevention Act [General Law 31-21.2-8] in the wake of findings in several communities that minority drivers were far more likely to be stopped and have their vehicles searched than white drivers.

“Unfortunately, nearly seven years after our initial report, the results remain disheartening,” the ACLU writes in its 2014 survey.

Joe Hutnak -
Author: Joe Hutnak - [email protected]

Co-Founder and Editor-at-Large of Warwick Post. For Warwick Post-related inquiries or communications, email [email protected]

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