New union president wants changes to Providence police reform ordinance

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The new president of the Providence police union said Tuesday he doesn’t believe an ordinance that makes sweeping changes to how officers do their jobs is necessary, but he’s unsure if he can convince the City Council to repeal it before it takes effect Jan. 1.

Michael Imondi, who defeated Sgt. Robert Boehm 302-101 in Tuesday’s election, said he has been against the Providence Community-Police Relations Act (PCPRA) “since day one,” arguing that he believes the majority of his members feel the same way.

“In a perfect world, I’d like to see it repealed or taken back,” Imondi told Eyewitness News in a phone interview Tuesday night. He later acknowledged “it’s a stretch” to believe the ordinance will be completely taken off the books, but said he plans to discuss his concerns with city officials.

The PCPRA prohibits police from relying on everything from race, ethnicity or language to housing status or political affiliation as a reason to suspect an individual has committed or is about to commit a crime. It also bars officers from inquiring about a person’s immigration status or from complying with requests from other agencies – including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – to support or assist operations conducted solely for the purpose of enforcing federal civil immigration law.

The ordinance also dictates how cops should document most of their encounters with the public, explains how officers should handle traffic stops and surveillance, and grants more power to the Providence External Review Authority (PERA), an independent nine-member board appointed by the mayor’s office and the City Council.

Boehm, who served one term as union president, also opposed the PCPRA, but he sat on a working group that ultimately endorsed the ordinance. His supporters argued that his handling of negotiations led to a watered down version of proposal, which was originally known as the Community Safety Act.

But Imondi said he would have taken a “different approach” to negotiations with the City Council, making the case that he would reached out to individual members earlier than Boehm did. He said he believes existing state and federal laws provide sufficient oversight over local police officers.

“To me, I don’t believe we need it,” Imondi said.

A spokesperson for Mayor Jorge Elorza did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. The first-term Democrat has previously called the PCPRA the “most comprehensive community-police relations law in the country” and a “national model for community policing,”

“With so much tension in the air in cities throughout the country, Providence is being proactive in collecting data and in adopting policies promoting transparency, accountability and strong community relations,” Elorza said when he signed the ordinance in June.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan