The Rhode Island Select Commission on Race and Police-Community Relations was established by Executive Order 00-3 by Governor Lincoln Almond on April 6, 2000. The Executive Order was issued following the shooting death of Providence Police Department Sergeant Cornel Young, Jr.
Sergeant Young was off duty on January 28, 2000 at Fidas Restaurant in Providence when a disturbance was started by other restaurant patrons. Sergeant Young, who was in plainclothes, observed a suspect with a gun confronting two officers. With his gun drawn, Sergeant Young approached them to offer assistance. The officers did not recognize him and ordered him to drop his gun. When he did not drop the weapon, the officers fired, striking him. Sergeant Young was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead a short time later.
Sergeant Young was promoted to the rank of Sergeant posthumously. Sergeant Young had been with the Providence Police Department for less than three years at the time of his death. There was a great community outcry following Sergeant Young’s, an African-American, shooting death at the hands of two white Providence Police Officers.
The Rhode Island Select Commission on Race and Police-Community Relations consisted of fifteen (15) members of which thirteen (13) members were assigned by the Governor and two (2) members were appointed by the General Assembly. The Commission was charged with:
• independently reviewing the issues surfacing from the shooting death of Sergeant Cornel Young, Jr.; including but not limited to impacts of investigations into that tragedy;
• analyzing police-community relations in Rhode Island, and making specific recommendations for their improvement;
• studying and recommending changes needed to statutes, ordinances, institutional policies, procedures and practices deemed necessary to:
o improve law enforcement work and
o reduce racism;
o enhance the administration of justice;
o affect reconciliation between diverse segments of the statewide community.
The Commission had the authority to hold hearings as necessary to request and review any public information the Commission deemed necessary for its work, including the review of any public information, documents and testimony related to the investigation of the death of Sergeant Cornel Young, Jr. The responsibilities of the Commission included, but were not limited to reviewing and recommending changes that significantly improve current police policies, procedures and practices related to:
• recruitment, hiring and training of police officers;
• the level and quality of diversity training, sensitivity awareness and cultural competency;
• the level and quality of efforts related to building and improving overall community relations;
• the use of firearms by on-duty and off-duty police officers;
• the use of excessive force;
• the use of racial profiling; and legislation reforming police policies, procedures or community relations.
The Commission was to submit a final report to the Governor and the General Assembly no later than May 1, 2001 and Executive Order 00-3 limited the Commission to functioning until May 31, 2001 unless its mission and work was extended by the Governor.