PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Providence Police Department is adding a new major to its command staff who will oversee community relations and diversion services.
The new leadership role, announced by Mayor Jorge Elorza Thursday, is aimed at “building and strengthening trust and respect within the community.”
The new command staff member will report directly to Chief Hugh Clements, according to a press release, and will oversee the training bureau, training academy and promotional process for officers seeking the higher ranks of sergeant, lieutenant and captain.
The officer hired for the new job will also be in charge of creating “interventions designed to reduce responses to calls that are more appropriate for specialized services like mental health and other counseling supports.”
City leaders have been discussing for months how to potentially divert certain calls away from police and to other social service agencies better equipped to handle them, spurred in part by last year’s nationwide protests against police brutality. An independent audit on the police department’s operations and budget is expected to be released in February, and could also lead to further changes.
The coveted new major position will be posted publicly, and applicants will be vetted by a panel of “public safety staff and Providence community members,” according to the mayor’s office.
Only four officers currently hold the rank in Providence: Majors David Lapatin, Michael Correia, Oscar Perez and Robert Lepre.
“The addition of a Community Relations and Diversion Services Major will uplift the voices of our community to the highest levels of leadership within the Providence Police Department,” Elorza said in a statement. “Over 20 years ago, the Providence Police Department was on the forefront of building relationships with the communities they serve and this new leadership role will continue to build upon and expand that work.”
Clements said the new leadership role would “further enhance our working relationships with community leaders.”
The salary range for the new fifth major position is $113,268 to $120,189, according to press secretary Ben Smith, and the money will be included in a revised proposal for the fiscal year 2020-21 budget that has not yet been released. (While the fiscal year is more than halfway over, a budget has not yet passed the City Council because of pandemic-related delays.)
The new job is one of several areas of additional spending expected to be added to the police department’s budget in the short term.
Elorza’s office recently inked a deal with the police union to give retroactive and future pay raises to rank-and-file officers, in exchange for increased contributions from the officers to their pensions and medical benefits. And a police academy to hire 50 new officers is also planned for later this year, expected to cost $1.4 million.