Changes for Providence Police gun task force

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The gun task force, a group of Providence Police officers focused on getting illegal guns off the streets, is facing some changes, after some residents have raised concerns over their practices.

The work the gun task force does is important, says the city’s public safety commissioner, Col. Steven Pare. But in their mission to reduce violence, some believe the officers had started crossing the line. The task force had gotten the nickname “the jump-out boys.”

“We can’t be violating anyone’s rights,” Col. Pare said Wednesday.

People have been raising concerns over the task force’s operations with police officials over the past six months. Then earlier this month, Project Night Vision community activist Kobi Dennis, along with other parents, complained two task force officers had been disrespectful to their children.

“We take allegations of that very seriously,” said Col. Pare. He put the entire task force on administrative duty for a period; all but two are now back on the job.

Instead of the task force wearing camouflage clothing, “We’re going to be changing their uniforms so it’s clear that they’re Providence police officers,” Pare said.

Every search of a citizen will now be logged and documented, including pat-downs. “It’s important that we know where our resources are, and what their strategy is,” Pare said.

With those changes and some more training, and the accountability and transparency they’ll all bring, it’ll help police-community relations, which are growing ever-important right now.

“We’ve seen the community uprisings in New York and Ferguson, and recently in Baltimore, and it all stems for varying degrees of use of force, including deadly use of force by police,” said Pare.

The two police officers accused of harassing the teenagers will stay on reassignment until the completion of an internal investigation, Col. Pare said. He expects it to be finished within two weeks.