Commissioner: ‘No correlation’ between recent Providence violence and police-reform ordinance

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said Thursday he sees “absolutely no correlation” between several recent shootings and the new police reform ordinance that took effect Jan. 1.

Pare was responding to a post on the Providence police union’s Facebook page that claimed violence “seems to have escalated” since the Providence Community-Police Relations Act (PCPRA) became law at the beginning of the year.

“There’s just no evidence or basis for it,” Pare told Eyewitness News.

There were five shootings reported in several Providence neighborhoods between Sunday and Wednesday, with one resulting in the death of a 22-year-old man. Pare said two of the shootings were related.

On its Facebook page, the union claimed the PCPRA is “planting the misguided seed of distrust in police, and in some cases, causing the ignorance of unfounded blind hatred of police officers.” The post states the ordinance “takes away the ability of officers to cultivate information by relying on investigatory skills and community relations and contacts, hampering the ability to speak with individuals who in turn may help solve a crime or control/stop criminal activity in the area.”

Asked for clarification on why the union believes the ordinance has led to an increase in violence, President Mike Imondi told Eyewitness News there are people “taunting police officers while in the performance of their duties.”

“This outside interference creates distractions for the officers and in some recent cases, infuriated the subjects involved in a police action, making it more difficult and dangerous for not only the officers, but all those involved,” Imondi said.

The PCPRA was largely opposed by rank-and-file members of the police department. Imondi was voted president of the union last October in large part due to his vocal opposition to the ordinance.

The PCPRA prohibits police from relying on everything from race, ethnicity or language to housing status or political affiliation as a reason to suspect an individual has committed or is about to commit a crime. It also bars officers from inquiring about a person’s immigration status or from complying with requests from other agencies – including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – to support or assist operations conducted solely for the purpose of enforcing federal civil immigration law.

The ordinance also dictates how cops should document most of their encounters with the public, explains how officers should handle traffic stops and surveillance, and grants more power to the Providence External Review Authority (PERA), an independent nine-member board appointed by the mayor’s office and the City Council.

Pare said he understands the union’s frustration, but stressed that police have made several significant arrests since the year started. The Providence Journal reported this week police seized five illegal guns during a recent six-day period.

“The women and men of the Providence Police Department continue to provide superb public safety services and in fact, seized numerous guns from the streets this month,” Pare said.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan