Providence, RI – Two Providence police officers were suspended with pay pending a Rhode Island Attorney General’s investigation of their use of force against teenagers who were pointing and shooting BB guns at officers and the public.
The incident occurred in the early hours of July 9 after officers responded to a call about teenagers pointing a BB gun that looked like a rifle at people on the street, including one police officer, WPRI reported.
A BMW convertible with tinted windows occupied by two 15 year olds and one 16 year old fled police and led officers on a wild chase through Providence that went on for hours.
The pursuit ended when the driver of the BMW crashed into a fire hydrant on Salmon Street, WPRI reported.
The initial police report did not address the use of force against the teens but said officers had taken them to the ground.
Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré told reporters at a press conference on July 22 that it was later brought to the attention of police officials that “there were injuries as a result of not only the crash, but some use of force that was used by police officers,” WPRI reported.
Lindsay Lague, a spokeswoman for Paré’s office, said police “began reviewing the circumstances of the arrest of one of the vehicle’s occupants, including any injuries sustained and the use of force involved,” The Providence Journal reported.
“Late last week, we invoked the attorney general’s statewide use of force protocol, and pursuant to that protocol, an investigation was commenced by the Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General, the Providence Police Department and the Rhode Island State Police,” Lague explained.
Paré identified the officers involved in the incident as Providence Police Officers Domingo Diaz and Mitchel Voyer, WPRI reported.
He said Officers Diaz and Voyer had been placed on paid administrative leave while an investigation was launched into the incident because the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights prevented unpaid suspensions longer than two days without triggering a disciplinary hearing process.
“I saw excessive use of force in some of the body cams that is both troubling and appalling,” the public safety commissioner said.
Paré has refused to release bodycam videos until the criminal investigation has been concluded, WPRI reported.
He has refused to give any details about what sort of force was used by the officers against the teens.
Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza said he was appalled by the bodycam video and called it “beyond upsetting,” WPRI reported.
“I fully support the suspension of these two officers, taking their guns away, taking them off the streets and holding them accountable,” Elorza said.
Providence police have also launched an administrative review of any policy violations by the officers in connection with the incident, WPRI reported.
The police union was furious about the public safety commissioner and the mayor’s rush to judgment in the incident.
Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge #3 President Michael Imondi said he was “fed up,” WPRI reported.
“Last I knew neither he nor the mayor were use-of-force specialists,” Imondi said. “You have to do what you have to do to effect the arrest within policy and procedure.”
“These kids were terrorizing the city,” the union boss added.
Imondi has not yet seen the bodycam videos but criticized Paré and Elorza for commenting on the officers’ actions before the investigation had been completed, WPRI reported.
“I think they should’ve not said anything until the investigation was over on this,” the FOP president said.
Imondi said many rank-and-file officers don’t think they can use the necessary force they’ve been trained to use when suspects resist arrest because a video may make it appear to have been excessive, WPRI reported.
“It’s never going to be acceptable to the commissioner and the mayor,” he said.