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A day after the firefighters union in Providence, Rhode Island said city police profiled an on-duty black firefighter when they held him and a friend at gunpoint outside a firehouse, the police union fired back. Providence FOP Lodge #3 accuses the firefighters of “headline grabbing” and says the “opportunistic” fire union president “recklessly” spread “mistruths in an environment when police are under attack.”
The statement from FOP Lodge #3 (below) provides details of the incident that the police union says are backed up by recordings from body worn cameras. Firefighter Terrell Paci told reporters he was in uniform and carrying a department radio when he was sitting in a car outside the firehouse with a friend around 11:00 p.m. Wednesday. Police captain and union representative Roger Aspinall says he has seen the video. WPRI-TV reports Aspinell said the video will show that the events didn’t unfold as described by Firefighter Paci.
“We saw the interview done on your news media,” Aspinall said, “And the first thing that we would do is conduct an investigation which is go back and talk to the officers and the officers accounts are a little different than what this firefighter had to post, and his accusations are hurtful and they’re not helping to diffuse the situation here in the community.”
“There was no racial profiling,” Aspinall said. “This is wrong….We didn’t do anything. We did our jobs. We did everything – these two young everything who did everything the way they should were perfect.”
A Providence Police spokesperson said the department became aware of the incident on Wednesday and began investigating. She declined to name the officers or released the body camera footage until the investigation is complete.
Providence FOP Lodge #3 statement:
Recently, a Providence firefighter went on the local news proclaiming officer misconduct against one of our Providence Police Officer members, followed by a very damning social media message put out by their union president. We, the Providence Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge #3, wholeheartedly disagree with the content of this firefighter’s statement and the context of the firefighter union’s message, and we have gathered the facts and information which tells the true story and we believe vindicates our officers.
• Police Officers were dispatched to a man breaking into businesses on Cranston St.
• Upon the officers’ arrival, two witnesses stated they saw a man running from the area outbound on Cranston St.
• Officers canvassed the area attempting to locate the subject fleeing the area.
• Another individual (the complainant in this matter) then flagged down the police, stating that a few minutes earlier a red vehicle with two occupants had pulled up to him and friend, and the occupants exited the vehicle and demanded money from him. The two subjects displayed a firearm and a knife. At this point the complainant and his friend ran fearing for their lives.
• The complainant stated to police that he believed that the red vehicle parked in front of the Messer Street Providence Firehouse may be the vehicle involved in the incident, and that the two occupants in the red vehicle could be those who had attempted to rob him at gunpoint and knifepoint.
• Investigating the incident based on information they had received from the complainant, the police officers approached that red vehicle in a manner consistent with their police training on conducting a felony car stop (possible firearm involved).
• With weapons drawn, as trained to do, the officers asked the occupants of the vehicle to show their hands and exit the vehicle.
• The subjects exited the vehicle and were identified as a Providence Firefighter and female occupant, and at this time the officers immediately re-holstered their firearms. The officers explained the reason why they were there.
• Out of an abundance of caution, one officer asked the driver if he could search the front compartment of the vehicle, and the female operator consented to the brief search. The search was conducted to remove any question of a firearm within the front compartment of the vehicle.
• The officers concluded the stop and apologized for any misunderstanding or inconvenience.
• One officer left the scene because they believed it was secure and that the individuals were clearly not the subjects, and then a third officer who was with the complainant further up the street responded to the firehouse to gather the final information to complete his report. At no time did the officers display any act that could be construed as racial profiling, they were simply responding to and investigating an incident based on the information given them from an on-scene complainant. All reports, racial profiling cards, and stop survey cards were completed. The transparency of their actions is beyond reproach.
The Officers involved conducted themselves in a professional manner. To have someone embellish what took place to grab a headline, especially in a time of turmoil, is the exact toxic nature of which we all are trying to move away from.
Good officers of different ethnicities are being accused of misconduct that clearly did not take place as originally reported. It is sad and disgusting that a Providence firefighter would distort the truth about our police officers, and that his opportunistic union president would recklessly publicize these mistruths in an environment when police are under attack. The only injustice here is that by the firefighter in question and his union president.
Respectfully, Providence FOP 3