close
close
Counters add new counter Standard counter counter id : 6290370 (Hidden) id counter displays: 6290370 site ID: 4637739 Hidden tracker Counter code standard NO JAVASCRIPT Site use frames Paste this code in your HTML editor where you would like to display the counter, at the bottom of the page, in a table, div or under a menu. gdpr policy for your website
bulletin

Pawtucket police chief feuds with councilman and state representative over arrest

The arrest of an 83-year-old black man at a meeting of public housing tenants last month is raising tensions between Pawtucket progressives and establishment Democrats over race and policing.

In a letter to the City Council, Pawtucket Police Chief Tina Goncalves accused Councilman Clovis Gregor and state Rep. Cherie Cruz of “political attacks” and using their offices to “gain favor with the police department” after Gregor raised concerns about the May attacks. 2 disorderly conduct arrest at Fogarty Gardens residential tower.

“Once they faced negative outcomes, they continued to paint a public narrative unfavorable to police,” Goncalves wrote of Gregor and Cruz. “In light of the hard work the Pawtucket Police Department has done and will continue to do to strengthen ties with our community, this politically motivated attack is unacceptable.”

Why it matters:

The spit comes when:

  • Cruz faces a primary challenge from Elizabeth Moreira, a former city health director backed by Mayor Donald Grebien
  • Criminal justice issues have sparked some of the hottest debates of this year’s General Assembly, with members of Pawtucket’s House delegation, including Cruz, objecting to bills that would make threatening school employees a crime and would ban chronically absent students report truant officers.
  • The Senate is expected to vote Thursday on a rewrite of the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, which House progressives oppose because, in their view, the reforms do not go far enough and, they say, would have allowed a department to fire the officer. who killed George Floyd.
  • Civil liberties groups are calling for changes to the LEOBOR bill, which, as written, would make it illegal for departments to release officers’ body camera footage in many incidents, including possibly the type at issue in Fogarty Gardens

What happened at Fogarty Gardens?

Goncalves’ letter, which was placed on Thursday’s Council meeting agenda, includes the department’s report on the May 2 arrest, in which Fogarty Gardens management called police when the defendant began “yelling” at fellow tenants and refused to leave when asked by an officer and then “began wrapping both arms around the officer’s waist in a bear hug-style motion.”

“As the officer attempted to comply with the man, he realized the man had his hand on the officer’s weapon and quickly brought the man to the ground,” Goncalves added.

After the suspect was taken to the police station, Cruz and Gregor went there and tried to find out from senior officers there what had happened and whether everything was okay. They asked if they could see him, and when they were told they couldn’t, they left and gave the officers their business cards.

Tensions rise during the Council meeting

The incident might have gone unnoticed had Gregor not mentioned it the following week, as city council members passed a resolution condemning racist social media posts by a fired public works employee.

“I was concerned that an 84-year-old man, war veteran, cancer survivor, a black man and a long-time resident of this community, was arrested, thrown to the ground and punched in the face while being arrested,” Gregor said. after noting that he did not know the details of what happened and “did not suggest” that the arrest stemmed from the type of discrimination evident in the social media post.

In her letter, Goncalves says the incident was captured on officers’ body cameras and Fogarty Gardens security cameras.

The body camera footage, which is public, would supposedly remove any doubt about what happened at Fogarty Gardens, but none has been released so far.

The Journal requested the body camera footage and police report on Wednesday.

Grebien endorsed Goncalves in an email response to questions Wednesday, saying she holds police “accountable and to high standards.”

“I trust her decision if she feels strong enough to make things right,” he wrote. “In light of the chief’s concerns about political interference, I will discuss the entire incident with the city attorney.”

Body camera images of the type at issue in the LEOBOR reform

The body camera footage is “part of the criminal justice process that is taking place” and therefore “cannot be shared,” city spokesperson Grace Voll wrote.

The body camera footage is an example of the kind of evidence that groups like Common Cause and the ACLU say could be permanently kept secret (although it would not retroactively affect this case) if the LEOBOR bill is passed as currently written.

It says police chiefs are “prohibited from releasing any video evidence or making any public statement about or relating to any incident or matter of public interest involving a law enforcement officer” when it comes to suspensions for minor infractions.

There are no signs that disciplinary action is being considered in the Fogarty Gardens case.

However, in his comments to the Board, Gregor said the defendant had filed an internal affairs complaint about his arrest, which could theoretically put it in the category of evidence that could be suppressed under that language in the future.

The Senate could amend the LEOBOR reform bill before it is voted on Thursday.

Cruz ‘blinded’ by letter

Meanwhile, Cruz Wednesday said she was blindsided by Goncalves’ letter because she didn’t know what “political motives” the chief was accusing her of and wasn’t sure if the letter itself was politically motivated.

“I don’t understand this letter or whether it is political in nature, but I am a public servant so it is my job to stand up and support my constituents,” she said. “I responded to help an elderly resident who called me from where he was. I came right away, as I hope any state representative would do… I spoke to the police officer who came out, the supervisor, and there was no conflict. “

Cruz said she received a text message from the police department after the defendant was released and issued a citation, closing the loop that everything was fine. She said she had not heard Gregor’s brief comments from Council last month, had not spoken publicly about the arrest at Fogarty Gardens since the evening of the incident, nor had she made any requests to police.

Since the initial arrest, the suspect has since been charged with assault and resisting arrest, court records show. He is represented by the public defender’s office.

Cruz was elected in 2022 with one of the most compelling personal stories in the General Assembly, including her father being shot by Pawtucket police and arrested on charges that were later dropped.

She said she hopes the body camera footage is released.

“This is why people wanted body cameras, right?” she said. “Because there were things at stake and we needed that kind of third-party accountability measure to make sure that this would help the police and the citizens.”

Related Articles

Back to top button