The police department will be led by State Police Capt. Kevin Barry, who will simultaneously lead a review of the so-called ticket blitz that has embroiled the Cranston Police Department with allegations of abuse of power after two City Councilmen alleged their voting wards were mass-ticketed with overnight parking citations the night after they voted against a new police contract in November.
Another, more detailed review of the department's professional standards will be conducted by State Police Capt. Benjamin Barney to investigate various allegations and concerns within the department, said State Police Superintendent Col. Steven O'Donnell.
Fung said the scope of the investigation broadened after "additional allegations" about the department surfaced in recent days. Those allegations were in the form of yet more anonymous letters and Fung would not elaborate on the nature of the allegations.
The thorough review is intended to reassure the public that they can have faith in both the police and city administration, Fung said.
"It's incumbent on myself to ensure there is trust within the community amongst all agencies of our city government," Fung said.
Barry will oversee the department's day-to-day operations and both Barry and Barney will provide the mayor with an "objective assessment" to "review any pending matters within the department so that this administration, so that I, as mayor and chief safety officer and most importantly, the residents of Cranston can move forward in an expeditious and yet diligent manner," Fung said.
Defending himself from the suggestion that he dragged his feet when the allegations first surfaced last month, Fung said it's "unfortunate" that "some members of the City Council have chosen to play politics with this matter."
"I do not and have not reacted in any type of knee-jerk reaction," Fung said. "Now is the time to rise above the fray and put the rumors to rest and complete an independent non-biased investigation and more importantly, restore confidence in the City of Cranston and most importantly, in our police department."
Barry is a 19-year veteran of the State Police, O'Donnell said, promising that the investigation will be conducted "cleanly, swiftly and effectively." He was selected in part because he is not eligible to retire from the Rhode Island State Police, which helps maintain a degree of impartiality. Upon completion of his work, he will return to the State Police, O'Donnell said.
It was not clear after today's press conference whether Palombo is suspected of any wrongdoing or if his temporary leave is more of a formality that calls for the head of the department under review to step aside. But Fung emphasized that the state police review is temporary.
O'Donnell could not give a specific timeframe for the investigation. The state police have not begun any investigative work into the overnight parking ticket allegations yet, but they have reviewed the internal report from Cranston Police and it is likely that all aspects of that report will be reexamined and people will be reinterviewed.
And it is unlikely that the public will learn much from the investigation, due to the Police Officers' Bill of Rights and other personnel issues which are usually kept secret.
Today's events do, however, underscore an apparent rift within the police department that is strong enough to compel rank-and-file officers to write anonymous letters to city officials with complaints.
Before this ticketing scandal, the Cranston Police Department has been typically held in high regard by other law enforcement agencies and people who work closely with the department. This past year, the department received exclusive state accreditation and last year obtained national accreditation — something fewer that five percent of departments across the country achieve.
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For complete coverage of the issue, see:
After voting against a new police contract, Councilmen Steve Stycos and Paul Archetto say their wards were targeted by a rash of tickets in retaliation.
Cranston Mayor Allan W. Fung has responded to allegations of abuse of power at the Cranston Police Department over a flurry of parking tickets that two city councilmen say were issued in retribution against their votes.
allegations of improper use of police authority," according to a release.