ACLU of R.I. calls for halt of Cranston PD’s ‘traffic stop quota’, says it encourages racial profiling

The Cranston Police Chief said in a statement, this claim is inaccurate and misleading.
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CRANSTON, R.I. (WLNE)- Back and forth on Monday between the ACLU and the Cranston Police Department, after the rights organization accused the department of enforcing an illegal traffic stop quota for patrol officers- the group says which has ‘contributed to a serious racial profiling problem in the City.’

The ACLU says for years the department has required police officers to stop a minimum of two cars during their patrol shifts. The ACLU says it leaves them ‘with little doubt that it has contributed to a serious racial profiling problem in the City’.

Steven Brown, Executive Director of ACLU of Rhode Island, says this goes directly against a state law that was passed over a decade ago.

“When you look at the statistics that have been gathered about the Cranston Police Department under state law… you find a lot of the data shows that people of color are routinely and disproportionally pulled over, stopped, and searched, and we have to believe that a policy like this is at least partly responsible for those figures,” Brown says.

Brown says after they saw copies of these emails where the police department references the practice, the ACLU reached out to the department for an explanation but never heard back. He says that’s why they decided to to public with this request.

Cranston Police Chief Michael Winquist released a statement in response to the ACLU on Monday, calling the claims by the organization ‘inaccurate and misleading’,

In the statement, Chief Winquist confirmed that there has been a long standing directive in place for officers to initiate two traffic stops during each of their eight hour shifts. Winquist says traffic enforcement is an important responsibilty of officers across the country- and his offcers conduct stops in an impartial way.

“There is no expectation or requirement that an officer must issue two traffic tickets during their shift, which would violate the Rhode Island General law regarding the prohibition of ticket quotas… According to this law, a ‘quota means any requirement regarding the number of arrests or investigative stops made, or summonses or citations issued, by an officer regarding motor vehicle traffic or parking violations,” the statement explains.

“ACLU Executive Director Steven Brown inaccurately refers to a Rhode Island General law prohibiting ticket quotas and investigatory stops,” Winquist continued.

The statement stressed the importance of traffic stops here in Rhode Island and the importance of strict enforcement.

“The number of deaths is above average at this point in the year and represents a dangerous trend that continues to increase. When traffic enforcement was relaxed during the pandemic, traffic fatalities spiked despite fewer vehicles on the roadway,” the statement read.

The ACLU is asking individuals who believe they may have been victims of unnecessary stops or of racial profiling under the quota policy to contact the ACLU at info@riaclu.org for a determination as to whether their rights were violated.

A copy of the ACLU’s letter, two of the city emails documenting the policy, and the ACLU’s correspondence to Chief Winquist are attached and can be found here.

Categories: Cranston, News, Regional News, Rhode Island