PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A Providence Department of Public Works employee has been fired and another is suspended after an incident at a job site on Monday, according to the city.
NAACP Providence President Jim Vincent said he was notified by a DPW employee that the noose was found on a worksite, and the employee reported it to the city. That employee also called Vincent, who heads the Providence branch of the organization aimed at eliminating racial prejudice.
“Finding a noose anywhere in Rhode Island is appalling,” Vincent said. “That’s a symbol of racism that I would’ve thought we would have long since stopped doing.”
City Spokesperson Emily Crowell declined to comment on the nature of the incident, but said it involved “several DPW employees.”
“While the details of this matter are under investigation by HR, one employee has been terminated and one employee has been suspended pending a pretrial hearing,” Crowell said in an email. The pretrial hearing refers to a union proceeding, not a criminal charge.
“What happened is absolutely despicable,” Mayor Jorge Elorza told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “It’s not going to be tolerated here in the city.”
He pointed out that it was unusual to outright fire an employee without a hearing.
“We took the step of already terminating one person, and that’s a fairly rare thing because of union protections and contract protections,” Elorza said. “But this is just so egregious that it merited immediate termination.”
Crowell said police are not currently involved, and no one was physically hurt.
She said the city’s Human Relations Commission has been piloting a series of trainings to “expand cultural competence” of employees. The first trainings have focused on gender diversity.
Vincent said mandatory racial diversity training should be planned.
This could happen again,” Vincent said. “So I would hope that the city would think about having mandatory diversity training for all DPW employees, if not all city employees. Because we have to stop this.”
Molly O’Brien contributed to this report.