PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Providence Police Department is looking to fire the officer who was seen on video slamming a suspect’s head into the ground during the city’s Fourth of July celebration.
Lindsay Lague, a spokesperson for the department, confirmed Friday that Captain Stephen Gencarella’s actions were in violation of the department’s rules and regulations.
Gencarella was one of two officers involved in a use-of-force incident near India Point Park last month, in which he was seen on bystander video grabbing the hair of suspect Armando Rivas and slamming his head into the ground while detaining him.
Prior to that, Gencarella and Lt. Matthew Jennette, the other officer involved, were both seen struggling to restrain Rivas. Jennette is ultimately seen putting handcuffs on Rivas about 12 seconds before Gencarella slams his head into the ground.
In a memo sent to Gencarella, Providence Police Chief Hugh Clements explained that what he wrote in his incident report doesn’t match what’s seen in the video.
“It is written in the report that while Rivas was prone, and on the ground, you ‘utilized a palm heel strike to the back of Rivas’s head.’ This strike is not depicted in the video,” Clements wrote. “What is captured on video is the grabbing of Rivas’s hair by you and you forcefully pushing his head/face into the pavement.”
Clements also noted that Gencarella violated Rivas’s civil rights. Based on the internal investigation into the incident, the chief said the department is recommending that Gencarella be terminated from his job.
Gencarella can’t be fired outright because he is protected by the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR). He now has five days to either request a LEOBOR hearing or resign.
Gencarella went on injury leave a few days after the incident, though it’s unclear what type of injury he sustained during the altercation. Lague said Gencarella will remain on injured-on-duty status as the investigation continues.
It’s unclear whether Gencarella will be criminally charged, since the force used in the incident remains under investigation by the attorney general’s office.
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