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Providence sergeant retires amid review of Sayles Street incident

Target 12

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A Providence police sergeant who was placed on administrative leave over the weekend amid a review into his actions at a high-profile incident is leaving the department, Target 12 has learned.

Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré confirmed that Sgt. Gregory Paolo put in for retirement Thursday morning. Paré said Paolo had been placed on administrative leave over the weekend as the Police Department conducts an internal review into a confrontation between police and two groups of neighbors on Sayles Street last Tuesday.

No action has been taken against any other officers yet as the Office of Professional Responsibility continues to review the matter, Paré added.

“He was one of several officers that we were reviewing behavior,” Paré said of Paolo.

The veteran police officer has more than 20 years on the force, making him fully vested in his pension. Retirement requests are handled by the Providence Retirement Board, not the Police Department.

In one of the body camera videos released last week, Paolo is seen on camera referring to a woman as a “she-male.”

“The Spanish against the Blacks, that’s exactly what it is,” he is also heard saying.

Zyrray Moore, a 21-year-old woman who spoke to 12 News last week, said she felt the language was “uncalled for.”

“Them telling me I’m a he-she … at the end of the day I’m a female, I know I am. And if I’m telling you, I shouldn’t have to go through that,” Moore said.

Moore, who was arrested by Paolo and other officers, said she was left in a hot van on a day where the heat index reached about 100 degrees. She was charged with simple assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct and has pleaded not guilty.

“The one that I locked up, the one with the short black hair that looks like a man,” Paolo says on the video after Moore’s arrest. “She assaulted me, I want her charged with that.”

Paolo and the Providence Police union president declined to comment.

Paolo is the only officer to be placed on leave thus far for the incident, at which officers deployed pepper spray and utilized batons to break up a dispute. Col. Hugh Clements said officers spent three hours on the scene trying to deescalate the situation, and used pepper spray and batons when verbal commands were ignored.

“It was used according to policy,” Clements said. “We have to as best we can try to create distance. For the safety of everyone, the people on the scene and the police officers. That’s why OC was used.” (OC is another term for pepper spray.)

Families held a news conference two days after the incident, claiming police improperly beat and pepper-sprayed children; Paré called those claims “inaccurate.” Officials say young children were not directly sprayed, but received residual effects from spray on people who were not complying with police commands.

Paré did acknowledge that inappropriate language was used by officers, and he said those remarks are under investigation along with the use of force.

“That’s not language that we accept,” he said. “When we complete all of this review, there will be responsibility and accountability for that.”

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

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