On August 19, 2021, the Rhode Island chapter of Black Lives Matter (BLM) called for the dismissal of two white Providence cops after the release of an arrest video that showed them punching and spitting on three handcuffed Black teens accused of going on a shooting rampage—with a BB gun.
The teenagers were not named because they are minors. The two Providence Police Department (PPD) officers who hit and spat on them, Domingo Diaz and Mitchell Voyer, were placed on paid leave for what Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré called excessive use of force after the incident. Mayor Jorge Elorza (D) also called the officers’ behavior “appalling.”
The incident unfolded on July 8, 2021, after the teens allegedly shot the BB gun at unsuspecting passers-by and waved it at police. They then led cops on an hours-long chase through the city before they were eventually caught, handcuffed, and subjected to blows and spittle from the two officers.
In a TV news interview, Mitchell Imondi, President of the city’s Fraternal Order of Police—the union representing PPD officers—appeared close to excusing the officers’ actions, which he contrasted with “the terror that these three individuals were raining down on the city for such an extended period of time.”
State BLM Executive Director Harrison Tuttle said that the incident underscores the urgency of passing a new Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBOR), the current version of which gives officers broad discretion in their response to crimes.
"We should really expect police officers, who taxpayers pay for, to be held accountable when they do something wrong,” Tuttle insisted.
However, it was unclear if LEOBOR would protect Diaz and Voyer from prosecution for what they did. Calls to ditch the law—the only one of its kind in New England—grew louder after PPD officers deployed pepper spray on an unruly crowd on June 29, 2021. In that incident, which began as a dispute between neighbors, babies as young as a year old were in the line of cops firing pepper spray, witnesses said. The disturbance ended with five people arrested on disorderly conduct charges, assaulting a police officer, and resisting arrest.
Elorza said he was also supportive of repealing LEOBOR.
Sources: WJAR-TV, WPRI-TV
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