By Associated Press - Friday, December 11, 2020

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Rhode Island’s attorney general has created a special four-member team of investigators to field civil rights complaints that reach the office.

Attorney General Peter Neronha said Thursday that the team will investigate cases such as police misconduct or hate crimes.

The team, which is comprised of three experienced criminal prosecutors and the office’s civil rights advocate, will gain greater expertise in civil rights law and what constitutes a violation to guarantee accurate and consistent investigations.

Neronha emphasized the importance of the perspective of the office’s civil rights advocate Keith Hoffman, who traditionally handles complaints that do not rise to criminal charges.

“Getting the perspective of someone who doesn’t work with police officers on a daily basis I think is a model that can really help,” Neronha said. “It brings to these cases someone who can test us: Are we seeing this the right way? Is it really what we think it is?”

Neronha’s plan also recommends local police departments designate a “hate crimes and civil rights liaison” to work with the team to share information and training opportunities with officers.

“We believe these cases are really important and we want to get them right. Getting it right might means bringing a charge, or not charging might be the right thing. (But) the message is, this is an area of priority for us,” Neronha said.

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