Last night, a group of protestors gathered outside my family home. While they’re within their right to dissent with my public positions as an elected official, their trespass and use of illegal fireworks on my property did not adhere to the spirit of democratic debate but was instead meant to intimidate and coerce.
They’re also reducing my call for the administration to design a city-wide public safety plan to be only about adding on more officers. Whether purposeful or not, this position minimizes the scope of what my resolution calls for to be simply about more enforcement. This position is incorrect.
My resolution also calls for more training for officers to be better able to equitably serve our diverse communities. It calls for an intentional commitment to invest in a social service and mental health responders program so we can stop imprisoning those amongst us who struggle with mental health.
While my resolution also calls for the convening of a new police academy without further delay, the impetus isn’t because I think we’re going to arrest our way out of our problems, but because we’re currently at an all-time staffing low and we are at risk of losing so many officers due to retirements and infection from COVID. There are currently around 113 officers eligible to retire and we’re risking peace and security if we don’t replace them while we can.
Abolishing the Providence Police Department is not the answer.
However, building up our Police Department from within the community, creating community policing where residents know the men and women who serve their neighborhoods, designing a curriculum for officers so that they are more culturally aware and empathetic, and a social response component are affirmative steps in the right direction. Our approach needs to be collaborative and holistic.
I look forward to continuing robust, respectful, and productive conversations regarding the future of our police department and public safety as we continue to push through this difficult time for the City we call home.
Jo-Ann Ryan, Majority Leader and Vice-Chair of the Council’s Committee on Finance
Providence City Council
Councilwoman – Ward 5