Providence PD hiring practices explained by commissioner, questioned by union

Providence's 68th academy is currently in it's second month.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The process that led to the most diverse Providence Police Academy class in history began in July of 2015, and included a series of cuts that whittled thousands down to dozens, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.

But the Fraternal Order of Police remains adamant that the system is flawed, countering the confidence the administrator with the final say has in the 68th academy and the steps that hired them.

“This is a detailed, lengthy process,” Public Safety Commissioner Steve Paré said. “We know it works.”

FOP President Sgt. Robert Boehm agrees that it’s lengthy, pointing out that the department lost candidates to other departments due to the time it took to fill the Providence academy.

“We think there are problems with how this is done,” Boehm said. “[The FOP] would like to help make it better. We’re not against diversity. We’re for it.”

According to a recruitment process spreadsheet provided to Target 12 by the police department, of the original 2,216 applicants, almost half were minorities. Women made up 347 of the applicants, some of whom were minorities as well.

Less than a third of the pool, 645 of the 2,216, took the physical test, with 420 of them passing.

The total was whittled down even further after the written test, where 286 passed an exam that for the past several years has been put together by a private company.

“The testing company devises a test so that it’s fair and it cuts across gender, ethnicity and race,” Paré explained.

According to the commissioner, recruits who lived in Providence received an extra 10 points on the written test.

Two hundred and forty of the recruits were interviewed and went through background checks, with bilingual applicants getting an advantage, according to Paré.

“If you’re bilingual and you’re among that 240, you’re a priority hire,” he said. “It is fair. We have a city that is very challenged with English being their second language. So we need a diverse workforce.”

Boehm told us a large percentage of the union, including minority officers, is concerned that the hiring process does not select the most qualified recruits.

“We believe that the background investigations are not looked at enough,” said Boehm. “We believe the interviews are not done properly.”

Boehm also believes politics plays a role in the diversity issue, something Paré said is not true.

“I’ve never had a mayor or a city council person ask for an exception for any candidate in either of the academies I’ve been involved with,” Paré said.

There are currently 57 recruits left in the academy, with 10 alternates.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau