Prov. City Council to subpoena police for video in sergeant’s assault case

Providence

Sgt. Joseph Hanley (Providence Police booking photo)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Providence City Council is planning to vote Thursday to issue a subpoena for body camera footage that led Providence Sgt. Joseph Hanley to be charged with assault earlier this year.

The subpoena comes at the request of the Providence External Review Authority, a civilian board charged with overseeing police misconduct, whose members say they’ve been blocked from accessing evidence and video about the case.

Mayor Jorge Elorza, who has seen the video in question, has moved to fire Hanley following the misdemeanor assault charge, a process that could take months under the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.

Hanley is currently suspended with pay. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge, which alleges he repeatedly struck a man named Rishod Gore after arresting him in April. Gore was already in handcuffs at the time of the alleged assault, according to police.

At its meeting last week, members of PERA expressed frustration that police had shown both the body camera footage and a cell phone video to an informal police advisory board, but have withheld the evidence from PERA.

Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré said the videos were shown to that advisory group before any charge was filed, and that he could not speak about the case or give PERA the video now that it’s an ongoing criminal matter. (The city has also denied an Access to Public Records Act request from Target 12 for the video.)

“That is evidence before the court and we’re precluded from showing evidence pre-trial,” Paré said.

In a letter to Council President Sabina Matos requesting the subpoena, PERA executive director Jose Batista and Chairman Nick Figueroa said PERA’s investigator Eugene Monteiro presented findings in a closed session of the board that elicited “very serious concerns” about the case.

Matos granted the request, and the vote to issue the subpoena is on the agenda for Thursday’s City Council meeting.

“The public safety commissioner refused to allow PERA access to the body camera footage despite PERA being empowered by ordinance to oversee these types of internal investigations,” Matos said in a statement. “This subpoena will now require that this footage be handed over to PERA so that they may do their due diligence as part of their review.”

In, an email, Paré said Tuesday: “We will comply with a lawfully issued subpoena.”

The council is demanding the video be provided to PERA within a week of issuing the subpoena.

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) covers Providence, politics and more for WPRI 12. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook

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