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RI state trooper under investigation for alleged cruiser tryst

Target 12

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A Rhode Island state trooper is under investigation for allegedly having sex in a cruiser while on duty, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.

The male trooper, who has not been identified at this time, was allegedly inside a cruiser with a woman in Charlestown last February when a local police officer spotted them. The incident is now the subject of an internal affairs investigation at state police headquarters in Scituate.

In an email, Charlestown Police Chief Michael Paliotta said one of his officers was “interviewed by a member of [the R.I. State Police] regarding an internal employee (RISP) matter about one month ago.” Paliotta declined to provide more details and referred all questions to the state police.

The state police were notified of the incident four weeks ago prompting the personnel investigation.

In an email, State Police Col. James Manni said he is barred from discussing any internal affairs investigation that could lead to punishment.

“As much as I understand your request for information, I am not permitted under the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights … to make any public statement in connection to the status of any Internal Affairs investigation,” Manni wrote. “The Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights prohibits me from making any public statement.”

That state law, known as LEOBOR, regulates how officer disciplinary matters are handled and forbids an agency from making any public statement “prior to a decision being rendered by the hearing committee.” The only exception is if an officer has been charged with a crime, then the department can confirm the charges and the person’s job status.

The trooper in this case was not charged and Col. Manni declined to say what his job status is as the investigation proceeds, again citing LEOBOR.

“I can talk generally about how this is handled,” he said. “Any allegation against a Rhode Island state trooper is immediately turned over to the professional standards unit (internal affairs) and is investigated thoroughly.”

In the past, troopers have been punished under a broad clause in the state police manual titled “Conduct Unbecoming.” It states, “Members of the Division shall conduct themselves at all times, both on and off duty, in such a manner as to reflect most favorably on the Rhode Island State Police.”

“Conduct unbecoming shall include any action that brings or may bring the Division into disrepute, discredits the member or impairs the operation or efficiency of the Rhode Island State Police,” the policy says.

Any police officer punishment beyond two days triggers the LEOBOR process, which calls for the formation of a “hearing committee” made up of three members of the Rhode Island law enforcement community. One member is chosen by the accused officer, another by the charging agency and the third is supposed to be neutral.

As Target 12 has previously reported, the LEOBOR process can drag on for months or longer and has had a chilling effect on police chiefs’ willingness to seek punishment beyond two days. State lawmakers have been debating whether to make changes to the law since last year but have so far failed to reach an agreement on revisions.

Tim White (twhite@wpri.com) is the Target 12 managing editor and chief investigative reporter at 12 News, and the host of Newsmakers. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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