Providence, RI - Current Providence Police Officers and recruits in the new Providence Police Academy apparently were not chosen on the basis of merit. They appear to have been chosen for political reasons to fulfill minority quotas, despite previous criminal involvement.
According to WPRI, a controversy is brewing within the agency's Police Officers over these issues.
One example was an individual that was was under surveillance in 2006 when he was 19, and was observed selling bags of cocaine to an undercover narcotics officer, who exchanged money for the drugs. That case was part of a federal program, the 'Lockwood Initiative,' to record audio and video evidence of suspected young drug dealers, who were then given a second chance.
That then 19-year-old is now a 30-year-old Providence Police Officer. If he had been charged with the crime of Manufacture, Possession and Delivery of a Schedule II Narcotic, he could have been convicted of a felony, which would have disqualified him from possessing a firearm or ever becoming a police officer.
Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare would not talk about any specific recruit. He said, "We have had some in this class that have brushes with the law. No one that has convicted of a felony. You cannot be a police officer in the state of Rhode Island with a felony conviction.”
In the past, detectives had to 'recommend' or 'do not recommend' an applicant for hire after conducting his or her background investigation. A reliable source said that one applicant was not recommended because of evidence found in his background that should have disqualified him.
The application was brought back to the detective, who was asked to look at Sanchez again. The detective found additional disqualifying information, and again did not recommend Sanchez.
Sanchez was allowed into the police academy, under the leadership of Commissioner Pare and Providence Police Chief Hugh Clements. After graduation from the academy, on what should have been his first night, Sanchez was fired for investigation into theft of a cell phone, according to ABC6.
The 'recommend' or 'do not recommend' part of an applicant's background investigation was removed after that. Instead, according to a reliable source, detectives were instructed to type narratives to make it obvious on who should attend the academy.
Recruits in the current class that had a strongly favorable narrative were denied. It appears to be no coincidence that the class is largely minority.
Commissioner Pare said that the application process includes physical, psychological, written and oral testing, and that he stands "firmly behind the current academy." He insisted that the recruits were the top 60 out of 2,100 applicants for this academy, which started in February, and lasts for six months.
We hope he's right because the citizens of Providence depend on him to be right. And the other officers that they work with depend on him to be right.
Providence Fraternal Order of Police President Sgt. Robert Boehm told WPRI that this is a political stunt.
“Our members feel that the city is manufacturing a political stunt for a ‘feel good’ story and a photo opportunity,” said Boehm.
Referencing the recruit who had been recorded selling drugs, Boehm said that “extremely large percentage of our membership” has concerns about working with that recruit if they make it through training.
Do you think that police departments should be lowering background check standards to allow more people through? We'd like to hear what you think. Please let us know in the comments.