PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A controversy is brewing within the Providence Police Department over the current police academy class, which includes a number of recruits who had “brushes with the law” and one allegedly caught on video selling cocaine to an undercover police officer when he was younger.
According to the police report obtained by Target 12, the then 19-year-old Providence resident was under surveillance on Sept. 5, 2006, as undercover officers approached to make a drug purchase.
“After a brief conversation,” the report states, “(Name redacted) handed [the undercover officer] clear bags of suspected cocaine.”
The report indicates money was then exchanged.
Multiple police sources tell Target 12 the case was part of a federally funded initiative that recorded video and audio evidence of apprehensions of young, suspected drug dealers.
But according to the sources and news reports, the suspects were not charged as a way to give them a second chance while potentially deterring them from dealing drugs by catching them doing it on video.
The sources said the suspect in the 2006 case is now a 30-year-old Providence police recruit who, like the others swept up by what was known as “The Lockwood Initiative,” was never charged for what the report indicates could’ve been one count of manufacture, possession and delivery of a schedule II narcotic.
Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré would not talk about any individual recruit but did acknowledge that more than one have been on the wrong side of the law.
“We have had some in this class that have brushes with the law,” Paré said. “No one that has convicted of a felony. You cannot be a police officer in the state of Rhode Island with a felony conviction.”
According to several police officers, the recruit in the drug sweep case and some of the others referenced by Commissioner Paré are creating dissent among officers who believe qualified applicants with clean records were overlooked in favor of some of the recruits who had “brushes with the law.”
Paré said the process to fill the academy was lengthy and included physical, psychological, written and oral testing, and he emphasized that he stands firmly behind the current academy.
“I am absolutely confident,” said Paré. “These are 60 of the top 2,100 that applied to be Providence police officers.”
The academy started in February and runs for six months.