East Providence patrolman has the brass to patrol with soul

Street Stories

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ When schools were shut down about three weeks ago, an East Providence student resource officer went back on patrol, but not before securing something he left inside the high school.

Patrolman Doug Borden grabbed the saxophone he’s been playing since he was in eighth grade, planning to take it home.

“So, I threw it in my cruiser,” Borden said. “And sort of forgot it was there.”

Crashes, crime and calls for help haven’t stopped. Although, the streets from Pawtucket to Bristol and into East Providence are obviously quieter.

The 20-year veteran had been a student resource officer since 2006 but was fine with patrolling a beat.

Then about a week after schools closed, he noticed the sax was still in his cruiser. He stopped for a short break, but instead of grabbing a coffee ─ he picked up the brass.

“I just started playing,” Borden said. “Not sure how good it was. But I did it anyway.”

His assigned posts are still checked, the neighborhoods patrolled and calls from the dispatchers answered.

But when he can, he stops and plays, with his chief’s approval.

“I don’t spend a lot of time doing this. Just occasionally, here or there, I’ll play a song,” Borden said. “My goal is to play one song a week. And then move around the city if people like it.”

He did play in a few parks along the way, but has stopped that since the city closed them.

The reaction has been far better than he expected.

“One woman was watching me play, and she said, ‘That made me tear up,'” Borden said. “I said, ‘I’m sorry, I really am trying to get better’ and she said ‘No, no, it was the song. It was very nice. It really made me tear up.'”

He does miss his old beat at the school and the students he would sometimes jam with. He said he looks forward to returning to the school with his sax.

But he hopes the occasional musical moment he blasts out can help distract the people he serves from everything else that’s dominating their world right now.

“I think the idea behind it is everyone feels a bit unsettled and everyone’s nervous about what’s going on,” Borden said. “I think they look over and they see a police officer with a saxophone and it gives them to pause from thinking about the virus.”

Email Walt at wbuteau@wpri.com with your story ideas and follow us on Twitter: @StreetStories12 and @wbuteau.

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