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Providence fire union says police ‘profiled’ on-duty black firefighter when they held him at gunpoint

IAFF local writes "even in uniform - a young black man is not immune from the impact of systemic, institutional racism."

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UPDATE: Police union strongly disputes firefighters. Says video shows there was no profiling.

Providence, Rhode Island Firefighter Terrell Paci says city police held him at gunpoint while he was in uniform and on-duty inside a car outside the firehouse late at night this past week. According to Paci, the police officers told him he met the description of a man waving a gun nearby. Paci says he was sitting in the car with a friend who brought him food.

IAFF Local 799 president Derek Silva came out with a strongly worded statement (below) Friday in support of Firefighter Paci that says police “profiled” Paci and makes the point that “even in uniform – a young black man is not immune from the impact of systemic, institutional racism.” Silva concluded by saying, “While we value our working relationship with the Providence Police, and know there are many officers who are working to change police culture, this incident proves that there is more work to be done.”

While police investigated the incident, Paci and some of his fellow firefighters joined a Black Lives Matter protest Friday in Providence and were interviewed on television (above).

Tamara Sacharcyzk, WJAR-TV:

23-year-old Providence Firefighter Terrell Paci says he became the victim of racial profiling earlier this week.

Paci told NBC 10 News he was sitting in a friend’s car outside of the Messer Street Fire Department, where he works, when two officers allegedly came up to him and drew their guns.

Fellow firefighters like Chris Bernal are now speaking out on his behalf. “Why is a young black male in uniform at his job a threat to a police officer? And when they noticed… why didn’t they fall back and correct the situation there?”

Providence Public Safety Commissioner Stephen Pare says the department is now investigating.

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We stand with our brother, Terrell Paci, who was on-duty, and in uniform, in front of the Messer Street fire station…

Posted by Providence Fire Fighters on Friday, June 5, 2020

Sarah Doiron & Caroline Goggin, WPRI-TV:

Paci said the officers then “hastily” got back into his vehicle and drove off.

Hours later, Paci said a Providence police sergeant visited the fire station and apologized for the two officers had done, “and yet the two officers were not present.”

In an email Friday night, Providence Police spokesperson Lindsay Lague said the department became aware of the allegations on Wednesday and started looking into it.

“As always, we will investigate these allegations,” Lague said. She declined to name the officers, and said body camera footage would not be released until the investigation is complete.

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Statement today (Saturday) from Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza:

Providence Firefighter Paci’s recounting of what he experienced this week is deeply, deeply disturbing,” Elorza said. “We have opened an investigation into this incident and it will receive our full and immediate attention. No one should have to experience something like this and we apologize on behalf of our city for the trauma it has caused. We stand with Firefighter Paci and thank him for his unwavering dedication to a city that he protects everyday through his service.

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