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Assault By Rhode Island State Trooper Is Grounds For Civil Rights Investigation


Dated: Friday July 05, 2019

The recent release of a video recording depicting a member of the Rhode Island State Police viciously assaulting a prisoner is cause for alarm, not only by members of the community but those in law enforcement as well.

First and foremost, there can be no doubt or argument against the fact that the actions of Trooper James Donnelly-Taylor were both reprehensible and illegal. These actions serve no useful purpose and have no legitimate place in the service of professional law enforcement. They should, in fact, be strongly considered as evidence and grounds for the immediate conduct of a federal civil rights violations investigation.

In his defense, it is both well, proper, and to his credit that Col. James Manni, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police, has expressed regret for this incident and has indicated that the behavior exhibited by Trooper Donnelly-Taylor is not one that is condoned by the men and women serving under his command. He has, in fact, further indicated that “any trooper who uses excessive force and unjustifiable violent tactics will be fired. There is no other acceptable penalty for crossing that line.”

With this in mind, we must then ask why there was no apparent effort to hold Trooper Donnelly-Taylor to a higher standard than a mere 22-day suspension? Was acceptance or approval of these abhorent attitudes and behaviors routine or systemic? That acceptance was apparently shown with the administrative and supervisory praise of Donnelly-Taylor as “a good trooper, fine young man, and exemplary trooper.”, and the offer of a 25percent salary increase upon his return to duty. That acceptance was implicitly indicated as another member of the agency merely stood by, watched and did absolutely nothing to stop what was clearly an illegal assault or honor his sworn duty to provide protection to an obvious victim. Did his deliberate indifference result in any discipline or policy changes? Any further investigation of this issue should consider the complicity of his actions as well.

Questions must as well be asked and answered regarding the administrative process that Donnelly-Taylor was subjected to. In the State of Rhode Island law enforcement officers who face more than a two-day suspension must be brought before a Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights hearing board. Such a process may very well have provided for Donnelly-Taylor’s termination.

As well, questions should be posed to determine whether there was any racial animus on the part of Donnelly-Taylor, other troopers involved in Monsanto’s arrest, or even in the procedures leading to the ultimate sentencing and plea agreement for Donnelly-Taylor, as both history and research would seem to indicate a likely different scenario had there been an officer of color involved.

It is necessary that a full and complete investigation to determine the extent to which Mr. Monsanto’s constitutional rights were violated be conducted. And although it is unlikely that, with the attitude of the current federal administration towards police accountability, such an investigation will ever be conducted, it is perhaps the only thing that will remove the stain that has been placed on the service of all law enforcement officers in Rhode Island as they continue to serve not as warriors but as guardians of their communities. Their service both requires and demands nothing less.

The National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, Inc, a 501.(c).(3) non-profit, is a premier national organization representing the interests and concerns of African American, Latino and other criminal justice practitioners of color serving in law enforcement, corrections, and investigative agencies throughout the United States, and the communities in which they serve.

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