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Rhode Island, we have a LEOBOR problem

Tyler Jackman

Photo from upriseri.com

Managing Editor


Daniel Dolan is a name that is, most unfortunately, becoming ubiquitous in Rhode Island. In a previous article for The Anchor, I noted Dolan’s infamous incident at a Wicked Good Pizza in West Greenwich. An off-duty Dolan followed then 18-year-old Dominic Vincent into the parking lot of the pizzeria, ostensibly to give him a “fatherly chat”, then shot and wounded the teen as he tried to leave the lot. Dolan was temporarily suspended, as per policy set out in Rhode Island’s Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights, or LEOBOR. He was later found not guilty for the incident by a Pawtucket jury, and received back pay of nearly $124,000 for his time off. Vincent received nothing but a gunshot wound, and according to his mother, Lisa, in an emotional testimony arguing for LEOBOR’s repeal, suicidal thoughts.


Now, Dolan is back in the headlines, and Rhode Islanders are scratching their heads as to why he carries a badge to “protect and serve.” Dolan was arrested in Coventry on September 2 for driving while intoxicated, refusing to submit to a DUI test and threatening public officials. Due to LEOBOR’s protections, Dolan is on paid leave for this incident, and Rhode Island’s taxpayers will continue to front his $71,000 salary as he embarks on another bitter legal battle.


As of 2023, Rhode Island is one of 15 states that codified LEOBOR protections into law. These protections are designed to protect officers from investigations, prosecutions, and firings arising from conduct while on official duty. One of the most controversial statutes within Rhode Island’s LEOBOR is the hearing committee which oversees judgements pertaining to an offending officer’s employment. These committees consist of one active or retired officer chosen by the accused, one chosen by the accusing police department, and a chairperson chosen by the two selected officers. Notably, they lack any independent or civilian oversight, a trait which is wholly unique to Rhode Island.


Due to this process, any officer accused of unbecoming nature, or even crimes while on duty, could be kept on the force and entitled to backpay. These hearing committees operate independent of civilian courts; therefore, a conviction in court would not directly affect the result of a hearing committee.


Currently, there are three bills being debated in the Rhode Island Congress that would alter the shape of LEOBOR in the state. H 5888, backed by former police officer and Rep. Raymond Hull, is a bill that would alter LEOBOR based on recommendations from a 2020 Senate commission examining the laws. Namely, the legislation would lift the gag rule on police chiefs commenting on investigations, raise the suspension limit from two to 14 days and add two more seats on the LEOBOR hearing committees, to be filled by a member of Rhode Island’s Human Rights Commission and a retired judge.


H 6200, sponsored by Rep. Jose Batista, makes similar changes but allows police chiefs to immediately discipline an offending officer, rather than wait for the verdict of the hearing committee. H 5567, backed by Rep. Jennifer Stewart, would completely end the LEOBOR in Rhode Island. Stewart argues that Rhode Island’s laws give criminal officers a shield from accountability unbestowed to civilians, stating on X, formerly known as Twitter, that “We cannot allow officers to stay on the force who have a record of misconduct or unjustified violence. LEOBoR gives police an extra level of "due process" which no one else has, not firefighters, EMTs, ER docs, etc.”


Whether one is an ardent defender of police officer’s rights or a staunch abolitionist, it is a simple truth that Rhode Island has one of the strongest LEOBOR protections in the nation. These protections, no matter what imagined benefits, also give officers like Dolan a unique defense against accountability not even granted to union workers, much less any average Rhode Islander.


Michael Imondi, President of the Providence Fraternal Order of Police, argues that while some changes could be permissible, any overhaul would infringe on the rights of police officers. "We're committed to reforming this law without a major overhaul that would impede police officers' due process rights as public employees”, Imondi told lawmakers at a hearing on LEOBOR.


Imondi is mistaken. Officers are provided due process by their very nature as citizens of the United States. Officers like Dolan and the many in the past protected by this archaic law stand as a clear example of the necessary reform or abolition of LEOBOR in Rhode Island. This is a time to act with clear minds and pragmatism in analyzing the damage these laws do not only to the trust in policing in the state, but the wellbeing of Rhode Island’s citizens. Without the will to act, we will have to grapple with the steady drumbeat of more victims and less accountability.


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