Last week, the Rhode Island House of Representatives passed legislation (H7766), put forward by Representative Daniel P. Reilly (R-Dist. 72 Portsmouth, Middletown, Newport), that would grant the federal government full jurisdiction on lands within the security perimeter at Naval Station Newport.
For years, although the land was used exclusively by the US Navy, local police were required to respond to any emergency calls concerning the land, which exists within both Middletown and Newport borders. This added unnecessary strain on these municipal budgets, said the Office of the Minority House.
“This problem recently became worse with the opening of the new commercial vehicle inspection facility off of Fleet Access Road,” said Reilly. “Which [means] that anytime illegal contraband was uncovered in a vehicle being inspected, the Middletown Police would have to get involved.”
The legislation does not impact the fire departments which has a Mutual Aid agreement to share services during major events.
While Middletown would lose jurisdiction over that land, Middletown Police Chief Anthony Pesare said change will not impact the department’s ability to enforce civilian law.
"We have been working on these types of issues with the Navy for many years and the does not effect our ability to enforce the law in Middletown or to continue to work with Navy police or NCIS regarding criminal activity,” said the Chief. “It merely clarifies areas of jurisdiction.”
Reilly said it removes redundancy.
“The change in law allows for the Town of Middletown to be able to focus on serving its residents, and recognizes the fact that the US Navy provides superb services for its service members, residents, visitors, and employees on the base already,” said Reilly.
State Senator Lou DiPalma said that he will look to get approval resolutions from the City of Newport as well as Newport to ensure the local government agrees with the legislation.
“It really just cleans up some inconsistencies on jurisdiction responsibilities regarding public safety” said DiPalma.