R.I. State Police Continue to Withhold Information
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 | firstname.lastname@example.org
The New England First Amendment Coalition praises the Providence Police Department for promptly releasing body camera footage showing the recent fatal shooting of a Rhode Island man as he rammed his pickup truck into other vehicles on Interstate 95.
The coalition, however, criticizes the lack of transparency within the State Police Department which has offered little information on its involvement in the shooting.
“When a citizen is killed by police, there is no excuse for secrecy,” said Justin Silverman, NEFAC’s executive director. “We hope state police will follow Providence’s lead and provide the transparency Rhode Island residents need.”
Providence police officers and Rhode Island state troopers shot and killed Joseph Santos on Thursday after pursuing him in connection to a separate incident that morning. Officials said police shot Santos after he began crashing his truck into other cars and trying to run over officers at the scene.
While three Providence Police officers were wearing body cameras during the shooting, only one of those cameras was activated. Though this raises concerns by NEFAC about the department’s policies on body camera use, the department did post the available video — along with footage from highway surveillance cameras — to its website and Facebook page on Friday. The department also identified the officers involved in the shooting, including the first one to pursue Santos, and released the number of shots that were fired.
In comparison, Rhode Island State Police do not use body cameras or dash cams and have released little information about the shooting. While initially pledging to release the names of troopers involved in the shooting, State Police still have not done so. Instead, despite their obligations under the state’s Access to Public Records Act, they are continuing to withhold the identities of those troopers until the conclusion of their investigation and have not acknowledged how many shots they fired.
This type of secrecy can erode the trust between law enforcement and their communities, Silverman said. The onus is now on all departments and agencies to maintain a high standard of disclosure after future shootings, whether officers acted appropriately or not, he added.
“There are lessons here not only for police departments in Rhode Island, but law enforcement agencies throughout New England,” Silverman said. “Transparency is crucial to the public’s trust. Body cameras and clear, consistent policies on how they are used can help build that trust.”
NEFAC is the region’s leading advocate for the public’s right to know. The coalition has called for broad access to police body camera footage, particularly in cases of officer-involved shootings. Most recently, NEFAC urged Vermont law enforcement to release videos of a shooting in Winooski, provided a panel discussion on body camera use in Connecticut and has written extensively on legislation throughout New England addressing body camera use.
NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.
Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.
Major Supporters of NEFAC for this year include the Barr Foundation, The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund, The Robertson Foundation, Lois Howe McClure, The Boston Globe and Boston University. Celebration Supporters include The Hartford Courant and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.