To Protect and Empower: Central Falls Police Chief Colonel Anthony Roberson

by Ann-Allison Clanton, contributing writer, “Speak-Up”

In a time when George Floyd’s cries are still etched in the memories of many across the country,

Providence native Anthony Roberson became Rhode Island’s first African American police colonel.

The architect of the “Shop with a Cop” and the “Handshake” initiatives has received numerous

accolades for these and his other community work. Police Chief Roberson will bring his years of

experience to Rhode Island’s smallest Police department, Central Falls. A year ago, no one could imagine that the smallest community in the Ocean State would elect the first African American Police Chief.

Police Chief Roberson plans to elevate the importance of community policing and build community relationships – all are part of Mayor Maria Rivera’s vision for the City of Central Falls’ Police Department. “I’m eager and prepared to bring this vision to life and support the Central Falls’ community in my role as Police Chief” says Roberson.

Colonel Roberson’s enthusiasm will undoubtedly strengthen the Central Falls’ Police Department. It is too soon to know whether the residents of the one square mile city are ready to accept the Colonel or his policies. Prior to his swearing in, supporters of Chief Daniel Barzykowski expressed their anger for his being replaced by the former Providence Police

Sergeant Roberson. Roberson who has two master’s degrees and a doctorate in education,

recognizes that he has to build trust. To that end, he plans to be very present around town by walking the neighborhoods, visiting community organizations and schools – he plans to be very involved. “I plan to be a very involved Police Chief, having a presence walking our streets and visiting our schools – that’s important to me,” he said.

A by-product of being the first law enforcement person of color for the city is the ability to empower others and open the door for other municipalities to follow suit. In a recent statement the Colonel stated that his greatest mission is to empower others and open the door for others to follow suit. A recent study of cities with Black police commanders, the per-capita rate of fatal shootings by police officers is about 65% lower than in cities with white police leaders.  Whether those statistics will apply positively to Central Falls is debatable, however for many of the city’s young people, his presence as a Colonel is the first time they’ll see a leader of a law enforcement agency that looks like them leading a police department.

“I believe we can empower our communities when we work to diversify our workforces with individuals who have different backgrounds, experiences, and talent to bring to the table,” Roberson says. Let’s hope that Colonel Roberson’s presence as the chief law enforcement officer in Central Falls is the beginning of good things for the city and the Ocean State.


Ann-Allison Clanton was born and raised in Providence, Rhode Island. As principle of Ann Clanton Communications, Ann has more than two decades of experience as a communications and public affairs consultant. She has written features and profiles articles for the Providence American Newspaper and Ethnic Online Magazine.

Among the notable persons interviewed include former U. S. Ambassador Andrew Young, Dr. Cornell West, former Florida Congressman Allen West (R-FL) and Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus first African American Ringmaster, Johnathan Lee Iverson.

Ann is the founder of the Rhode Island Black Film Festival and a founding member of the Southern New England Association of Black Journalists.

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