Chief: Officers ‘acted professionally’ during confrontation with Providence councilwoman


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Police have released a recording of the phone call that led to a confrontation between a Providence councilwoman and officers outside of a wine bar last month.

On July 22, a Providence resident who claimed to live across the street from Fortnight Wine Bar on Dorrance Street called police to file a noise complaint.

“They are playing this music really loud,” the caller told dispatch. “I live across the street and I’m trying to sleep, you know?”

Multiple officers then responded to the bar, which is known to support the Black Lives Matter movement and the defunding of the city’s police department.

Councilwoman Kat Kerwin, who can be heard in the body cam footage stating the bar’s owner is a friend of hers, intervened in the conversation between the officers and the owner regarding the complaint.

In the footage, an officer can be heard telling Kerwin to calm down. She replied, “I’m a councilwoman, please don’t tell me what to do.”

Later on, when another officer tried explaining that they were responding to the noise complaint, Kerwin was heard saying, “They live downtown. They can f***ing get over it.”

Soon after the incident, Kerwin stated she believed that the noise complaint was “extremely unlikely” and that the bar was “a frequent target of harassment by the police.”

“It is clear to me that what I observed was an attempt to harass a small business for bravely supporting youth organizers and working alongside community leaders to defund the police,” she wrote. “At a time when our small businesses are suffering, this seems particularly egregious.”

During an interview on WPRO Tuesday, Kerwin expressed frustration regarding the number of officers that responded to the initial complaint.

“So many officers were showing up to the pettiest noise complaint when in my neighborhood, when real stuff happens, I can’t get a response,” she said. “It you want a peaceful, quiet situation, you should not live above a bar, but even with that being said, this music was not loud.”

In the body cam footage, an officer can be heard explaining the large police presence to the owner. He said people in that area of the city are usually hostile toward them, and it was a matter of safety for their personnel.

Mike Imondi, president of the Providence Police Union, tells Eyewitness News it’s common for more than one officer to respond to a scene.

“They are going to take the precautions necessary to keep themselves safe as well as keeping everybody else safe there,” he said in a statement.

Kerwin disagreed, arguing that the officers were trying to intimidate the bar and its patrons.

“They are angry about someone speaking out about injustice so they need to harass them further,” she said.

Providence Police Chief Hugh Clements said he stands by his officers, adding that they acted professionally.

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