Police chiefs association cold to state rep’s plan to get rid of front license plates

Photo: Marcos Valentin/WPRI-TV

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The head of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association is not a fan of state Rep. Robert Nardolillo’s call to remove front license plates on cars.

Central Falls Police Col. James Mendonca – who was elected president of the association on Saturday – said the proposal would make it harder for police to solve crimes.

“There is little doubt that law enforcement across the state would want to identify a vehicle coming or going,” Mendonca said. “Witnesses – even [security] cameras – may not have the ability to see license plates in the back.”

Mendonca said cars are often solely identified with front plates, which would leave a lot of crimes unsolved – like tracking stolen motor vehicles – if Nardolillo’s plan went through.

The Republican state lawmaker from Coventry, who is also running for U.S. Senate, said Friday he plans introduce legislation to “eliminate the requirement for a front license plate on vehicles registered in Rhode Island.”

Nardolillo said the state could save up to $2 million by not issuing front plates, and would use the money for “scholastic investments.”

“This is not just about reducing the cost to own a car in our state,” Nardolillo said in a statement. “This is about spending our money wisely and investing in our future.”

Eyewitness News spoke with taxpayers about the proposal Friday night.

“I think if it were to go and generate some revenue for the state it’s probably a good idea,” said Jim Bucci, of East Providence.

Others, were concerned about the safety issues eliminating the plate could cause. “I feel like the police should have both license plates to identify people, so people can be safe,” said Shawn Ferreira, of Riverside.

In a statement, Nardolillo said, “My intention with this legislation is not to make the vital job of law enforcement more difficult but to find savings for our state. I plan to explore the topic further.”

Mendonca said the chiefs association would most likely testify against the measure if it gets to a hearing.

Tim White (twhite@wpri.com) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook