PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ In the wake of Providence’s 12th homicide this year, Gov. Dan McKee says he’s puzzled as to why Mayor Jorge Elorza hasn’t taken him up on his offer to provide the city with state resources.
In a May 27 letter obtained by 12 News, McKee told Elorza he was willing to deploy the R.I. State Police Neighborhood Response Team, which the governor described as “a federally-funded program that has been successfully engaged in previous years to help curb violence and protect communities.”
“We share the same goal of ensuring the safety of Providence residents, small businesses and visitors,” McKee wrote. “As we emerge from this pandemic, it is crucial that our families and our local economy are in a position to thrive, and public safety plays a critical role in that recovery.”
But during his weekly briefing Tuesday, McKee claimed that nearly two months and a number of violent incidents later, Elorza hasn’t responded to that letter.
“As a governor, if I have resources I think can help any community in the state, I’m going to offer them up,” he said. “I felt it was very important to make that offer and not just sit back and do nothing.”
Following the briefing, McKee sent a follow-up letter to Elorza once again offering to activate the Neighborhood Response Team to “curb this continued violence.”
“The shooting this past weekend have only highlighted the need to act,” McKee wrote. “I implore you to accept our offer.”
Elorza’s office provided an email dated June 8 from the mayor’s chief of staff Nicole Pollock to McKee’s press secretary Alana O’Hare, telling her that Providence Police Chief Hugh Clements has been in “regular touch” with State Police Col. James Manni about coordination.
Asked about the situation Tuesday afternoon, Elorza told reporters the city was not turning down help.
“If it’s a genuine good faith offer to help, we wouldn’t turn that down from anyone,” Elorza said.
“It’s my understanding that our chief and the colonel of the State Police, they’ve been in conversations seeing how this could work. We have the same goal. We want to get these guns off the streets, we want to keep as many of our young people alive,” he said.
McKee said his offer to help isn’t political in nature and he’s just looking to provide additional protection for the city’s residents.
“If the city takes it, they take it. If they don’t take it, they don’t take it,” he said. “But I have a responsibility to provide the resources that are at my disposal.”
McKee and Elorza are expected to be potential opponents in the Democratic primary for governor next year. It’s not the first time the two leaders have sparred in recent days; the governor and mayor were at odds last week about a plan to move a charter school into a Providence public school building.
Reached by phone, Clements confirmed he and Manni spoke after McKee’s first letter and discussed “ways we could strategize to have an impact on gun crimes.”
“We had a couple of conversations,” Clements said. No plan to utilize the Neighborhood Response Team has been formed.
“It sounds like the governor’s office needs to touch base with the State Police,” said Theresa Agonia, the mayor’s communications director.