The Providence American caught up with Commissioner of
Public Safety Steven Pare for an update on Police and community relations post
the Comprehensive Police and Community Relations Act (CCPRA) legislation.
Periodically The Providence American has touched bases with Providence law
enforcement to gauge progress in community policing ever since the push for the
so-called Driving-While-Black legislation morphed into the CCPRA. Commissioner
Pare was a major player in the early days in developing this legislation when
he was the head of the State Police. Since then the Commissioner has taken on
the Public Safety role in the city of Providence that has included the Police
and Fire Departments operations.
thanks for taking time to talk with us. Since the CCPRA legislation passed has
the relationship between the Police and the community improved?
SP: I believe it
has. If you look back 25 years ago there was racial profiling being done by
some police as it related to people of color. Was this disparate treatment?
Yes. But since the CCPRA was passed
there is a systematic approach to look at and review cases today. Providence is
not a Ferguson or a Baltimore or San Francisco, but we have had some issues
that caused concern for both the Police department and the community. However
we have managed to get pass the rhetoric and to work with community leaders to
solve those cases. Look we cannot effectively police without the community’s
respect and credibility.
PA: How are you
doing with recruiting new Police Officers from the community?
SP: We are
encouraged and improving on that front. The current class of Police recruits is
about 70% minority and I believe the Fire Departments recruits are almost 50 %
minority. So things are improving.
PA: In the past
there has been conversation around changing/lowering the standards to allow for
minority recruitment. Did you have to do that to achieve the level of
recruitment you mentioned and has the Union accepted these results?
SP: No, not at
all. There were some rumbling and rumors among the rank and file of the number
of minority recruits that raised questions about the selection process. But
that was the only real push back that I am aware of beyond a case regarding one
recruits background as a juvenile.
PA: Where are we
with Body Cams in Providence and is the Union on board with the Body Cams?
SP: We have now
accepted 250 Body Cams for use by uniformed officers on the street. We are in
the process of training the officers now, and should have them deployed very
soon. The Union wasn’t against Body Cams but questioned the priority of
spending resources on body Cams versus other equipment like bullet proof vests,
or cruisers; other equipment.
PA: Will Attorney
General Sessions threat to reduce law enforcement funding to so-called
sanctuary cities effect operations here in Providence like Body Cams?
SP: I don’t think
so. If Federal dollars are taken away then there will be some impact on Police
activities. Things like highway/rode safety, drug interdiction and other police
activity, but not Body Cams.
PA: What’s your
opinion on Criminal Justice Reform here in Rhode Island?
SP: I think it is
necessary. Incarceration is extremely expensive. Housing people at the ACI for
drug related crime is not effective. Locking up someone that may be medically addicted
to drugs makes no sense. Nor does it do society any good to put a conviction of
a minor offense on a young persons record for a minor drug infraction; then
expect that person to obtain employment in the future and make a positive
contribution to society, it just does not work.
Commissioner, what’s your opinion on socially legalizing marijuana in Rhode
SP: Not a good Idea.
I believe its sends the wrong message to young people and gives them another
substance to experiment with that might not turn out well for them. Medical use
is one thing but every day use is another. Not a good idea.
I would like to thank you for the time and your comments on these issues that
are important to the community a large. I would also like to commend you on
your work as our Public Safety Officer and the strides you have made in
improving police and community relations in Providence. Thank you for your