Last night, the City Council’s Committee on Finance met to review the City of Providence Public Safety Budget related to launching a new cohort for the Providence Police Academy. The Committee, Chaired by Chairman John J. Igliozzi Esq, (Ward 7), met with Providence Public Safety Commissioner Stephen Paré, Providence Police Chief Hugh T. Clements, City Chief Financial Officer Larry Mancini, and the City’s Internal Auditor Gina Costa to discuss budgeting and how we could fund an Academy in this current year.
“Public safety is a vital component to our City’s budget, and our residents and taxpayers expect that we will have an adequate police force to protect them if they come into harm’s way,” stated Chairman John J. Igliozzi, Esq. “Last night, our Committee was able to ensure that our Public Safety division had the appropriate allocations to fund a new Academy and would be able to move forward without further delay.”
With the help of the City’s Chief Financial Officer Lawrence Mancini and the City’s Internal Auditor Gina Costa, Chairman John J. Igliozzi, Esq., and Vice Chairwoman Jo-Ann Ryan confirmed that there are currently ample funds available to move forward with the current police academy while also maintaining the salaries of officers currently employed by the City. This funding was approved in the FY ’20 budget, and through attrition and current spending, the dollars remain available and even allows for a surplus in the division. Over the past several weeks City Councilor’s have called on the Mayor and the Commissioner to launch a new Academy and were told that the funds were not available to move forward. However, funding exists and removes any perceived roadblocks that contributed to the 2019-2020 police academy’s slow progression.
“Our police department is losing more officers than it is bringing on. We need to continue to recruit and train diverse and culturally competent new officers, especially during this time of unprecedented violence and crime in our City. There are young men and women out there who are ready and willing to serve. As a City, we need to actively seek out these selfless individuals so that our police department can continue to progress and improve. I, along with my colleagues, ask that the Academy move forward without any further delay, and I am very pleased that the Committee and the City’s finance teams identified funding to make this happen. Additionally, I look forward to working collaboratively with Family Services of Rhode Island and our finance teams to enhance the social services component of our policing,” added Vice-Chairwoman and Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5).
Currently, 119 young men and women are participating in the Providence Police Academy enrollment process. This multi-phase Academy includes recruitment, physical training, personal interviews, and background checks. The Academy is currently working through the interview portion for a cohort recruited in November through January of 2019.
It is prudent that we not stall the new Academy any further. The Council cannot responsibly pass a budget until they get a clearer picture of what amount the City will receive in State aid. However, with the current allocations, this new cohort can begin in earnest.
With approximately 113 officers currently eligible to retire from the Providence Police Department, it is crucial that the police academy moves forward and recruit more officers. A well-staffed police department in the City of Providence consists of anywhere between 450-500 officers. Because of retirements, the COVID-19 pandemic, and officers who have been injured while on duty and are unable to work, the Police Department is understaffed.