Policing is more than keeping order…let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work in Pawtucket – Mayor Grebien

Photo: Mayor Grebien cuts the ribbon for opening of Bake My Day bakery, Pawtucket

Pawtucket’s Mayor Grebien has immediate ideas to improve issues with law enforcement in the best interests of the safety and well-being of all of city residents.

Here is the letter sent to the Pawtucket City Council, the Acting Public Safety Director, and Police Chief Tina Goncalves

Dear Honorable Members:

Thank you for your input and leadership as we collectively work through these challenging times to navigate through the coronavirus pandemic. The City continues to work hard alongside the multi-organization BEAT COVID-19 initiative to ensure that we are reaching everyone in our community to get tested and seek isolation. The City and Rhode Island Department of Health continue to provide services to all of our residents in multiple languages to minimize the spread of the virus.

The safety and well-being of all of our residents will remain a top priority, especially now in these difficult times. We are proud of our residents who continue to peacefully demonstrate. We ask our Pawtucket community to continue to show restraint and advocate for peace as we all deal with the pain and grief of the recent tragedy.

The City hears and stands together with the members of our community advocating for change as we look to continue moving Pawtucket, the State of Rhode Island and the nation as a whole forward. We all understand these are difficult times, and our residents are reaching out to us from varying perspectives both for and against the Defunding the Police Initiative. People nationally are frustrated and rightfully so, as we all witnessed the murder of George Floyd. As leaders we are obligated to listen, provide equity and respond to our constituents. We also have the responsibility to protect our diverse community in a responsible way.

The Pawtucket Police Department is a highly trained and focused community-based department. They are not without issues but this Administration, along with the City Council, have worked through past days to provide a better department, changing the culture to put our residents first. What just happened in Minnesota only reminds us that more needs to be done in a responsible manner.

We must continue to work with our community partners to strengthen the Police Department’s relationship with the residents they serve. The Police Department is regularly partnering with organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club, the Cape Verdean American Community Development, Progreso Latino, the YMCA, NAACP and the countless neighborhood associations, just to mention a few.

This past year, the Pawtucket Police Department responded to over 95,000 calls to protect our community. The Pawtucket Police Department, led by the first female chief in the state, Chief Tina Goncalves, has successfully continued to improve its relationship with the community. Since Chief Goncalves tenure began in 2017, crime has been 10% lower on average over the last three years when compared to the seven years prior. The Department:

  • continues transitioning to focus more on community policing and working with our residents through the Neighborhood Response Unit;
  • works with minority groups to aggressively recruit diverse police officers working;
  • implemented the addition of the K-9 unit spearheaded by Watson, the first full time police compassion animal in Rhode Island, that provides comfort to individuals who have experienced extremely traumatic events;
  • has a civilian domestic violence advocate in house through the Blackstone Valley Advocacy Center; and
  • launched the Explorers Program for local youth providing them with meaningful career training and a better understanding of our community policing efforts, which helps to recruit youth from the community at the grassroots level.

Policing is more than keeping order, it is providing services to those in need. The Pawtucket Police Department has a strong use of force policy that requires de-escalation and comprehensive reporting when assisting the public, which was not used years ago. All members of the Department also continue training that goes above and beyond that required by federal and state regulations.

The City and the members of the Pawtucket Police Department continue on this positive path and understand that there is much more that must be done. We are committed to continue working toward a long-term, sustainable solution.

Pawtucket needs to be on the forefront of these national and systemic changes as we continue to lead by example. This will not come without community input and Council support. The Department will continue to reinforce areas it is already practicing in the Campaign Zero (8 Can’t Wait). The Administration, the City Council, and the Public Safety Director need to work together to assess any guidelines that come from the federal and state level and incorporate them with our own. This includes advocating strongly for the long overdue changes needed with the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights (LEOBOR) at the state and any policy decisions on the national level.

As we look to move ahead, we are exploring options and the potential to implement:

  • an independent oversight board for the department that works closely with the administration, City Council, and residents;
  • a focus of funds on more social and cultural initiatives within the department as it becomes more and more prevalent that the State does not fund these types of services; and
  • revisiting the implementation of a community liaison that was approved by the City Council in 2017, but put a hold due to budgetary concerns. This civilian position would specifically focus on
    • liaising with the residents of Pawtucket to advance the mission of holistic public safety and to dedicate special time and attention to changing, diverse, underserved and/or underrepresented populations, communities, and neighborhoods;
    • cultivating and maintaining visible relationships with civic groups, community agencies, non-profit organizations and other community partners;
    • assisting in the development and execution of a strategy with community input to improve community relations with a focus on measures to strengthen relationships and support community-based safety initiatives;
    • developing a community outreach plan to establish points of contact, to participate in cultural events, to organize information sessions and meeting, and to address pressing current issues for the city’s constituents; and
    • recommending pro-active strategies to the Director of Public Safety to create opportunities for improved communication with and service to our community and neighborhoods.

Moving forward successfully will take a comprehensive, informed, and collaborative policy approach that takes into consideration all of the needs of our society. There is no simple solution, but the Administration stands ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work. All communities are different and this is why we are currently meeting with community leaders and statewide stakeholders as we look to implement the best practices our community deserves on this nationwide issue.

I thank the City Council for your continued support as we work collaboratively to continue improving relations with our community.


Donald R. Grebien

Posted in