PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Providence City Council President John Igliozzi believes he has a solution to the city’s recent flare-up of violence, but there’s an obstacle in the way: not enough police officers.
In a less than two-hour span Sunday morning, Providence police responded to two stabbings and two shootings in different parts of the city. Two men were taken to the hospital with stab wounds, while five people were wounded in one of the shootings and a 24-year-old Warwick woman, who police say was an innocent bystander, was killed in the other shooting.
Igliozzi tells 12 News he wants to bring back a time-honored law enforcement strategy: community policing. He believes increasing officers’ presence and personal connections in Providence’s neighborhoods would help reduce criminal activity.
“There’s no greater deterrent to crime than an officer working the beat,” Igliozzi said. “We need to take back our city, bring back the safety and security.”
“It worked in the past, it can work today, and we should implement it immediately,” he added.
Michael Imondi, a 27-year veteran of the force and president of the city’s police union, agrees with Igliozzi. The problem, according to Imondi, is that the Providence Police Department is currently running dozens of officers short.
“It would be great to bring it back, but you need the resources to do that,” Imondi said.
The department typically aims to have around 500 officers, Imondi said, but right now it has only 400, with 50 aspiring officers being trained in the police academy.
“You are taking 100 police officers out of the resources the department has to use,” he explained. “Obviously, you have to take away from community policing, you have to take away from the gun task force, the gang units.”
In order to address the recent increase in violence, more officers are needed on the street, according to Imondi.
“We don’t have the bodies to put out there,” he said. “If you can’t fill every car in the city and you can’t fill these small specialized bureaus that target this type of violence, it’s just not going to happen.”
Imondi said some of his colleagues at the police department have opted to transfer elsewhere due to the current environment and lack of support.
“We need to be able to do our job, and what’s happening right now, we’re handcuffed by the administration,” he added. “The mayor comes out and vilifies you for doing your job without vetting out the process first and the evidence.”
12 News reached out to both the police department and mayor’s office for comment. Col. Hugh Clements declined to comment on the matter, while Elorza’s office has not yet responded.
Another elected official on board with the call for community policing in Providence is Gov. Dan McKee, who says more council members and representatives should make similar calls in response to the uptick in violent crime.
Assuring there’s no tension between him and Elorza following last week’s public confrontation, McKee doubled down on his offer to have Rhode Island State Police step in to help.
“This is not happening in other cities and towns in the state of Rhode Island, not to this degree, so we will keep the pressure on,” McKee said Tuesday.
McKee said even though troopers’ boots are not on the ground in the capital city, state police are helping behind the scenes.
At least two letters offering aid were sent by McKee to Elorza over the past few months. On Friday, Elorza told 12 News there’s no plans to utilize the Community Emergency Response Team at this time.
“I believe when the governor first sent the letter — I will give him the benefit of the doubt — I believe he sent it out in good faith,” Elorza added. “When he sent out the follow-up letter, that was a political stunt.”
Elorza is likely to run against McKee in next year’s gubernatorial race.