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Cranston Police Source of Intimidation, Say Critics

Friday, January 17, 2014

 

The Cranston's Police Department's recent ticket scandal has raised concerns about the department's proclivity for intimidation.
 
"In light of recent allegations I can certainly understand why some people [in Cranston] would feel reluctant about going on the record there to complain," said Rhode Island ACLU Executive Director Steven Brown. 

A retired Cranston Police Officer, who said he has always been concerned for residents who cross the Cranston Police, agrees.

"I'm not concerned about my own well being, but rather that of my two sons. One of whom drives. I have huge concerns about what could be done to him – or my wife – by the police. And I don't want a brick thrown through my window at night," he said on the condition of anonymity.

Nothing new for Cranston

The retired officer said the threat of police intimidation in the city isn't new, but it's been renewed with the rise of last November's ticketing scandal. Cranston Police Captain Stephen Antonucci, president of the police labor union, has denied allegations that officers blanketed two wards with tickets in retaliation against two City Council members for votes regarding a police labor contract. Councilmen Steven A. Stycos, D-Ward 1, and Paul H. Archetto, D-Ward 3, said officers upset by votes on Nov. 14 ticketed cars illegally parked in their wards – to the tune of 128 tickets in two days following the vote.

The retired officer said he knew something was wrong when he saw cars papered with tickets last November.

"I was driving my son to school nearby and every car had an orange ticket. Obviously someone blanketed the whole neighborhood. I didn't put two and two together until I thought about the council vote on the contract. No tickets are written for a long time then suddenly one of the at large council people who voted against the contract lives in Ward One, one of the targeted wards?"

ACLU files open records request

On Thursday, Rhode Island's ACLU filed an open records request with the Cranston Police Department in an effort to determine if the ticket blitz, ordered by Captain Antonucci, was done through official channels.

"The ACLU has received anonymous tips, which have also been provided to the State Police, that Capt. Antonucci used a private cell phone, not the police department’s radio, to order officers to engage in the controversial ticketing during the nights in question in November," said Brown.

The ACLU open records request to interim police chief Kevin Barry seeks copies of:

* Any police radio conversations or calls made by Antonucci with the station or other members of the police department between November 13 and November 16, 2013, relating to the issuance of parking tickets, and/or any police logs relating to any such conversations or calls;

* Any departmental policies, rules or regulations governing police officers’ use of private or personal cell phones for law-enforcement related activities; and

* Any memos, orders, or other documents issued by Antonucci between January 1, 2013 and November 16, 2013 relating to enforcement of the City’s overnight parking ordinance.

The ACLU believes the records will help clarify exactly how the ticketing happened and whether it was done in accordance with departmental policies. The agency has ten days to respond to the request under the open records law.
In the meantime, residents await the department's next move. Intimidation tactics have been part of the Cranston Police Department arsenal for years, according to a local author and historian. Steven Frias, a regulatory lawyer and author of “Cranston and Its Mayors: A History,” thinks people in the city should be concerned about police intimidation.

"I'm not saying that it is prevalent or occurring all the time. But instances of intimidation occur periodically with the Cranston Police in particular," he said.

How ticketing works

To put the story in perspective it's important to know how ticketing typically works. Police tend to focus on a street or neighborhood if they receive complaints from residents. Those complaints often go through the constituent affairs office or the police department. If warranted, police officers will ticket the offending vehicle owners or give them a warning. (It is also important to note that such ticket fines in Cranston have gone from around $5 in the 1980s to $50.) 

Frias said his research leads him to wonder if the department's union, and its origins, are a factor in such behavior. Cranston officers are represented by the International Brotherhood of Police Officers (IBPO), not the Fraternal Order of Police.

"The IBPO, in the 1960s, had very aggressive, militant union views in comparison to officers in the FOP. When you look at its origins, there was a lot of personal conflicts in the department in the 60s. I call it factionalism, and I wonder if that also was a factor in the problems Cranston has had over the years," Frias said.

Police picketed City Hall for higher pay and benefits in 1967. Frias said city employees who crossed the picket line were threatened. In the coming years, binding arbitration led to higher pay and retirement benefits for Cranston police officers until the city hit the financial skids in the 1990s.

Frias said city council meetings in which spending reductions were proposed were met with uniformed police officers leading cheers for higher taxes to maintain benefits, which were eventually passed. In 2000, the union targeted an incumbent who had opposed a police union contract proposed by Mayor John O’Leary. Frias said the incumbent was defeated in a Democratic primary and in his place John Nardolillo Jr., the president of the Johnston police union, was elected. 

One wonders why Frias, a Cranston resident, is so comfortable talking publicly about such intimidation.

"I'm really not afraid of them. I'm an attorney and I'm just not afraid of what they're going to do with me. I don't drink and drive. I honestly can tell you that I've never been harassed or intimidated in any way by a police officer in the City of Cranston, he said.

"But I'm not surprised if someone else had been [intimidated]."

Brown said he is pleased that the investigation has gone beyond internal affairs. If it actually sheds any light on the operations at the department, at least one retired police officer will be surprised.

"I think it's important to finally tell the truth about what's going on in the city," said the officer.

"There's more, a lot more, than just this ticket scandal." 

 

Related Slideshow: Cranston Police Contributions to Allan Fung

Prev Next

Lt. Stephen Antonucci

12 contributions from Vito Antonucci, City of Providence, Public Properties Division, Chepachet RI. Made from 2008-13 total of $825.

  • 6/16/08 $100
  • 7/28/08 $150
  • 7/28/08 $150
  • 8/22/08 $50
  • 8/22/08 $50
  • 9/20/08 $100
  • 9/20/08 $100
  • 3/07/09 $100
  • 5/18/09 $100
  • 9/13/11 $100
  • 9/29/13 $100

 

8 Contributions from Michelle Antonucci, 60 Pine Ridge Drive, Cranston (PayChex Inc. of EP as employer).  Made from 2008-2013 for $1,060.

  • 6/19/08 $100
  • 8/06/08 $150
  • 8/06/08 $150
  • 9/23/08 $50
  • 9/23/08 $50
  • 4/16/09 $200
  • 10/26/10 $60
  • 10/03/13 $500

 

2 Contributions from Gail Antonucci, 119 Woodview Drive, Cranston (Homemaker)

  • 6/18/08 $100
  • 5/18/09 $100

 

contributions from Kevin Antonucci, 70 Garden Hills Drive, Cranston (City of Cranston)

  • 7/28/08 $150
  • 7/28/08 $150
Prev Next

Lt. Alan Loiselle

9 Contributions in name of Alan Loiselle, 20 Eastgate Drive, Warwick (City of Cranston as employer)

  • 6/5/08 $186.83 (In-kind, listed as “Hardware and supplies for headquarters”)
  • 6/16/08 $200
  • 6/23/08 $53.37 (In-kind, see above)
  • 7/28/08 $150
  • 7/31/08 $133.36 (In-kind, “Building materials and supplies”)
  • 5/18/09 $100
  • 9/16/08 $127.12 (In-kind, “Building equipment and supplies”)
  • 8/30/10 $100
  • 10/24/10 $50

 

1 Contribution from Robert Loiselle, Loiselle Insurance Agency, Pawtucket.

  • 10/29/08 $100

 

1 Contribution from Martin Loiselle, retired, 180 Potters Ave., Cranston.

  • 6/16/08 $100
Prev Next

Lt. Carl R. Ricci

7 contributions from a Carl R. Ricci, 76 Northview Ave. Cranston (Phred’s Drugs as employer)

  • 8/20/09 $300
  • 8/30/10 $100
  • 10/30/09 $125
  • 2/25/10 $150
  • 2/23/11 $150
  • 2/21/12 $150
  • 2/21/13 $150

 

Prev Next

Captain Sean Carmody

2 contributions from Sean P. Carmody, 129 Allens Ave. Cranston (City of Cranston employer)

  • 9/21/08 $100
  • 10/08/08 $200

10 contributions from Melissa Augaitis, 10 Basil Crossing, (Employer, Perspectives Corporation)

  • 6/16/08 $200
  • 3/26/09 $100
    2/25/10 $300
    8/30/10 $250
    10/17/10 $200
    2/23/11 $200
    2/29/12 $150
    6/3/13 $250
    6/25/13 $250
    9/29/12 $500

1 contribution from Maureen Carmody, same address, no employer

  • 7/28/08 $100

 

Prev Next

Chief Marco Palombo

4 Contributions in name of Michelle Palombo, 4 Jennifer Circle, Cranston (homemaker)

  • 9/18/08 $50
  • 9/13/11 $150
  • 6/25/13 $200
  • 7/22/13 $200
 
 

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