Providence police officer fired for racially charged comments

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A 21-year veteran of the Providence Police Department has been terminated for what officials say were racially charged comments.

Last month, the city moved to terminate Sgt. David Marchant. In a decision released Tuesday following a Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights hearing, the firing was upheld.

The complaint stemmed from an incident in December of 2014 where Marchant and a black Providence police officer responded to a report of a suspicious package, according to a copy of the hearing obtained by Eyewitness News.

The decision states Marchant was questioned by another officer after police protocols weren’t followed with the handling of the package. According to the report, Marchant said “how I handled it was okay because I had the black officer open the package.” The sergeant says it was intended to be a joke, and that making racial remarks was a way to relieve stress at the time.

Marchant was also accused of saying if the black officer got sick from opening the package, it wouldn’t be a big deal because “he’s a black guy anyway.”

The black officer said the remarks made him feel “hurt” and “disgusted” and “near speechless.”

“Racism has no place in our city and will not be tolerated within government,” said Mayor Jorge Elorza in a statement. “Today’s decision sends a strong message that racial bias will has no place in the Providence Police or any city department and those who violate will face justice.”

Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said he believes Marchant’s behavior was going on for quite some time.

“He’s no longer deserving to be called the rank of sergeant. He’s no longer a Providence police officer. He’s David Marchant,” said Pare.

Providence Police Col. Hugh Clements testified that he does not feel Marchant has the “self discipline to control his comments.”

Eyewitness News has reached out to Marchant’s lawyer for comment, but he hasn’t called back. He defended Marchant in Tuesday’s hearing, saying “what it is, it’s a cop-to-cop joke, kind of like shop talk.”

“There was the joke defense, which obviously did not fly, and additionally it was explained as a ‘stress reliever,'” said Vincent Ragosta, who’s representing the city of Providence in the case.

No word if Marchant will appeal the termination.

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