State Police may help Providence fight crime

November 29th, 2013 at 3:25 pm by under Nesi's Notes

By Dan McGowan & Tim White

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Leaders from the Rhode Island State Police and the Providence Police Department are discussing an arrangement that would provide the city with a “semi-permanent” state trooper detail to assist with crime prevention.

In a memo obtained by WPRI.com, State Police Deputy Superintendent Lt. Col. Michael Winquist wrote that approximately six troopers would assist with the city’s Neighborhood Response Team, an eight-year-old joint taskforce between state and Providence Police that has traditionally been used during the summer months and on holiday weekends.

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Scituate, police union set for arbitration over pension shortfall

February 5th, 2013 at 6:47 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

​By Ted Nesi and Tim White

SCITUATE, R.I. (WPRI) – Police officers in Scituate are criticizing a plan crafted by town officials that would make officers pay more for less generous pensions in order to help close an $8 million shortfall that opened up over the last decade.

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• Interactive: Town-by-town map of local pension liabilities in Rhode Island (Feb. 4)

Firefighters organizing pension protest at Raimondo fundraiser

December 10th, 2012 at 10:31 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

• Update: Raimondo says she respects union pacts

Treasurer Gina Raimondo will have some uninvited guests at her fundraiser in Providence tonight.

Paul Valletta, president of the Cranston firefighters union, confirmed to WPRI 12′s Tim White that his members will be picketing outside a campaign fundraiser Raimondo is holding Monday night at Rick’s Roadhouse to coincide with the Patriots’ appearance on Monday Night Football.

“It’s just our way to say that we haven’t forgotten what the general treasurer did to many state workers, police officers, teachers and firefighters,” Valletta told White on Monday. “It hasn’t been forgotten that people’s lives have been changed negatively when they didn’t have to be.”

Valletta famously argued during last fall’s debate over the new pension law that Raimondo had “cooked the books” by getting the Retirement Board to change investment and actuarial forecasts in ways that worsened the pension fund’s finances. Raimondo said the new numbers were more accurate.

The R.I. State Association of Fire Fighters has asked all off-duty members to join the protest, writing in an email that it’s “very likely that she will be making a run for the governor’s seat next election.” Valletta said some police officers may show up, as well, but they don’t want to cause “a mess on the street.”

“One of the issues we are focusing on is the age issue: with the change to the pension you are going to have firefighters stay into their 60s and 70s to get a full pension,” he said.

Echoing an argument gaining steam of late, Valletta said Raimondo should have negotiated changes to the pension system at the bargaining table with organized labor rather than having state lawmakers approve the changes unilaterally.

​(photo: ProvidencesRestaurant.com)

Slideshow: Bristol police want back into the town pension plan

August 14th, 2012 at 12:40 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

The police union in Bristol is trying to convince town officials to move their officers out of the state-run Municipal Employees Retirement System (MERS) and back into the town’s underfunded locally run pension plan [pdf], which was closed to new hires in 1998.

The union hired an actuary from Milliman to help them make the case – here’s her slideshow:

What do you think?

WPRI wins public records case; Woonsocket PD must disclose

June 25th, 2012 at 3:02 pm by under General Talk, Nesi's Notes

By Tim White

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Rhode Island Attorney General’s office has ruled the Woonsocket Police Department violated the state’s public records laws by refusing to give WPRI 12 the narrative portion of an arrest report, charging a fellow officer with drunk driving.

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White: Cranston cop out on public records hurts right to know

December 20th, 2011 at 6:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

By Tim White

A case of a police department apparently cooking the books is being obscured from view thanks to a sloppy translation of Rhode Island’s public records laws.

In October, The Providence Journal’s Amanda Milkovits ran a superbly reported story on police misconduct complaints in Cranston that were essentially tucked away, seemingly to do nothing more than collect dust. The report points out the previous police chief, Col. Stephen McGrath, had touted a sharp decline in police complaints in a 2007 annual report. But that might have been nothing more than a sleight of hand, according to an internal investigation.

Here are the findings from Milkovits’ article in a nutshell:

… according to an audit ordered by current Police Chief Marco Palombo Jr., the real reason the number of complaints dropped was that instead of logging all of the complaints, the department’s internal-affairs unit was diverting some into a “file report,” where they vanished from the log-book, statistics, and, apparently, investigations.

Milkovits wrote four excruciating paragraphs detailing why everyone and their lawyers couldn’t, or wouldn’t, explain why data on officer complaints vanished into a virtual drawer.


Target 12: In Rhode Island, it seems to matter ‘Who You Know’

November 11th, 2011 at 8:55 am by under Nesi's Notes

Are police departments in the state favoring certain connected individuals? Tim White reports:

C. Falls’ fired police chief started collecting a pension last year

September 23rd, 2011 at 5:29 pm by under Nesi's Notes

Joseph P. Moran’s tenure as Central Falls’ police chief ended when receiver Robert Flanders eliminated his job on Friday morning – more than a year after the chief started collecting his pension.

Although Moran officially “retired” on April 1, 2010, he simultaneously signed a new five-year contract allowing him to continue working as the city’s police chief. The chief said it would save money over the long run.

The eyebrow-raising deal – reached just two months before the city’s leaders declared insolvency and filed for receivership – put Moran in line to earn roughly $121,000 this year: a $71,000 salary and a $50,678 pension.

However, Moran’s annual pension was slashed by 55% to $22,805 starting this month as part of the deep cuts ordered by Flanders following Central Falls’ bankruptcy filing, documents reviewed by WPRI.com show. With the loss of his salary now, too, Moran’s income has dropped by nearly $100,000 over roughly a month.

Moran’s original $50,678 pension was the second largest in Central Falls, topped only by the $52,055 paid to the widow of the city’s late fire chief, Rene Coutu; the ex-chief’s reduced $22,805 pension ranks No. 21 out of 134. Coutu’s is still the largest at $44,046, according to the receiver’s office.

Flanders voided the new contract Moran signed last year earlier this month. The other two Central Falls employees whose positions were eliminated today – the police department’s prosecution clerk and the deputy city clerk – moved to other jobs, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office said.

Nneka Nwosu contributed to this report.

Flanders aims to slash Central Falls police, fire budget by 40%

August 2nd, 2011 at 10:36 am by under Nesi's Notes

Central Falls’ state-appointed receiver is proposing a 40% reduction in the city’s police and fire budget as part of its Chapter 9 filing, according to court documents filed Monday.

Receiver Robert Flanders asked U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Frank Bailey to void the city’s contracts with its police, fire and municipal unions. To support the proposal, he presented two city budgets for 2011-12 – its current unbalanced one, and a proposed balanced one that could be put in place if the contracts are thrown out.

The balanced budget would reduce Central Falls’ municipal spending this fiscal year by 26%, from $22 million to $16.3 million, to match its revenue. The bulk of those savings would come by reducing the police and fire departments’ budgets from a combined $10.6 million to $6.4 million.

“Many of the changes producing significant savings … are changes in the active labor force either by reduction, consolidation or shared services which would be prohibited under the terms of the CBAs,” or collective bargaining agreements, Theodore Orson, the city’s bankruptcy attorney, wrote in the filing.

Orson went on to say the city will treat the union contracts as null and void effective immediately, and warned of dire consequences if the judge reinstates them rather than siding with Flanders.

“Unless the CBAs are rejected, the city will be ‘upside-down’ financially and will be unable to pay its debts as they become due,” he wrote. “Without rejection, the city will default on its pension obligations and other obligations. It might even default on its bond obligations which would have enormous policy implications beyond Central Falls.”

The unions’ attorneys filed notice with the court on Monday. Carly Beauvais Iafrate of Providence will represent the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 2, and Elizabeth Wiens of Gursky Law Associates in North Kingstown will represent the Central Falls Fire Fighters Union, IAFF Local 1485.

A hearing on the city’s bankruptcy case is scheduled for Wednesday morning at U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Providence.

More Central Falls coverage on Nesi’s Notes:

Public records outrage of the day: North Providence edition

June 9th, 2011 at 1:42 pm by under Nesi's Notes

A picture is worth a thousand words. Especially when most of the words have been assaulted by a magic marker.

Acting on a tip Wednesday, Tim White broke a story about a North Providence firefighter arrested for allegedly stealing painkillers from a terminally ill patient while responding to an emergency call.

To confirm the news, Tim called the North Providence Police Department and spoke to the deputy chief. He also asked for the department’s arrest report on the case. That’s common practice; Rhode Island’s public records law specifically says that “records or reports reflecting the initial arrest of an adult and the charge or charges brought against an adult shall be public.”

The most interesting part of an arrest report is usually the narrative, where the officer describes how the alleged crime was committed and how the suspect was caught. It often provides the most vivid details you read in the news article on a crime.

The deputy chief told Tim he’d send the report along, but first he wanted to redact the victim’s name. Here’s what the narrative looked like when it showed up on our fax machine 10 minutes later:

Dig that transparency!

Tim called the police department back and said, basically, “Is this a joke?” The deputy chief admitted that perhaps the redaction had been a bit extreme, and agreed to take another look. About a half-hour later, Tim got this new version of the narrative:

The second version showed the original one redacted just about everything: the initial reason for the emergency call, a whole section about a witness claiming he saw the firefighter pocket the pills, another about the firefighter being questioned about it, a third one about him allegedly dropping the pills on the couch – basically, the entire story of what happened. Why was all that hidden from the public?

On top of that, the deputy chief had already given Tim many of these details verbally during their original phone interview. So it’s not like he thought all that information should be a secret.

Also interesting – notice that the original, heavily redacted version of the narrative ends with the long second paragraph, but the second version continues onto a second page. So the original version didn’t even include the full arrest report – redacted or not – yet there was no way for us to be aware of the fact that even more information was being withheld than the redacting showed.

And even the less-redacted version of the arrest report raises questions. The deputy chief had said he was only going to remove the name of the victim, but clearly the second version excises far more than that, including full sentences.

As always, the problem here is a knee-jerk default to secrecy – “the right to no” instead of the right to know.

“I applaud the North Providence Police Department for being more transparent the second time around, but my concern is that they may have done it because I’m a member of the news media,” Tim said. “Would a regular member of the general public – who has a right to an arrest report that’s not completely blacked out – get the same treatment?”

More public records coverage on Nesi’s Notes: