North Providence swears in 1st permanent police chief since ’11

David Tikoian, a retired State Police Major, will lead the North Providence Police Department. (WPRI)

NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A retired major with the Rhode Island State Police was sworn in Tuesday as the town of North Providence’s new chief of police.

In a ceremony at North Providence High School, Mayor Charles Lombardi said he’s confident David Tikoian will lead the department with “honesty, integrity and responsibility.”

Tikoian’s appointment marks the end of months of turmoil within the department and six years without a permanent leader, following the 2011 arrest of former Chief John Whiting. Since then, the department has been led by three different acting chiefs.

“By Mayor Lombardi’s decision to appoint a permanent chief, he has provided us with a significant opportunity: a fresh start,” Tikoian said Tuesday.

Tikoian, an Armenian-American, focused on the word “opportunity” during his emotional speech, invoking his immigrant grandparents who survived the genocide.

“For it not for their survival, David Tikoian would not be here this evening,” he said. “I would not be speaking to you as I am now.”

Tikoian, 49, replaces acting Chief Charles Davey, a captain who ran the department after interim Chief Christopher Pelagio was suspended indefinitely last month. Lombardi couldn’t offer details on the decision to suspend Pelagio, citing his protection under the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.

Pelagio’s three-year reign was plagued by controversy after the police union voted no confidence in his leadership and the town’s highest ranking female officer lodged a sexual harassment suit against him and other high-ranking members of the department.

As first reported by Target 12 in July, Cranston police revealed the results of an internal investigation they said shows Pelagio was the aggressor in a confrontation between him and a Cranston police officer. The investigation report showed there was bad blood between the two men going back 20 years, allegedly stemming from a dispute over a woman.

Tikoian told Eyewitness News he hopes his approach is just what the town needs.

“My philosophy and my style of leadership – and it’s been successful – is just to treat people with courtesy, dignity and respect,” he said. “I’m ready for the challenge. I think we can do great things for the town and for the police department.”

“Major Tikoian comes to our town with a wealth of experience,” Lombardi added. “The department needed, you know, new direction, non-partisan, so to say, someone that comes to us, doesn’t have an agenda.”

Tikoian attained the rank of major with the Rhode Island State Police before retiring from the force and going to work with the Providence Water Supply Board. He made headlines in late 2015 when he found a binder containing $4,000 in the middle of a street in Providence and turned it in to city police. They tracked down the Connecticut contractor the money belonged to, who said he’d accidentally left it on top of his truck and it fell off when he started driving.

In a statement Tuesday night, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin said:

“I extend my sincerest congratulations to David Tikoian on his swearing-in as Chief of the North Providence Police Department. Chief Tikoian is an individual of great integrity, humility, and principle, and I have every confidence he will bring those same qualities to the North Providence Police Department. I look forward to working with him in his new capacity.”