PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The city’s decision to place several Providence police officers on administrative duty following a citizen complaint was a “knee-jerk reaction” to “politically-motivated and biased radical activists,” the police union said Friday.
The union’s criticism of Mayor Jorge Elorza and police leadership came after Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare put the department’s entire eight-man gun task force on desk duty earlier this week. Pare took action after community activist Kobi Dennis and other parents complained that two officers were disrespectful to their children last Friday night.
“The consequences of the combined actions of the police administration, City Hall leadership and these activists has been to decrease the safety of the citizens in the city of Providence due to the disruption of police activities, to increase the dangers posed to our police officers and to lower morale among the ranks,” the five-member executive board for the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #3 wrote in a statement.
Dennis, who founded the Project Night Vision program that works with young people across the city, told the Providence Journal that the task force, often referred to as “jump out boys,” has been “terrorizing us for 10 years.” He claims his son and the other teenagers were threatened and frisked by two members of the task force.
Pare initially placed the entire task force in administrative duty, but redeployed six members on Thursday. He said the two officers accused of harassing the teenagers have been “temporarily reassigned” until the department’s internal investigation is complete.
“They’re a valuable unit, focused on violence and guns,” Pare said. “But we take the complaints seriously.”
Pare said the entire task force will receive more training and will be required to wear uniforms that better reflect their role as police officers. He also said all searches will be documented moving forward.Dan McGowan ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan