Kobi Dennis (pictured at right) founded and runs the Project: Night Vision program for city youths and works in partnerships with the Providence police and the state police. Kibi asserts two plainclothes officers came upon his son and 2 friends, jumped from an unmarked vehicle on Vandewater Street on April 10, 2015 and demanded to know "where the [fuc*ing] guns were." They also frisked his 18-year-old son and two friends. As the officers were leaving, the teens asked if they could also leave. One officer threatened to break their jaws, Dennis said.
After this incident, the entire eight-member gun task force was put on administrative duty until Thursday and two members have been reassigned while an internal investigation is completed. The Fraternal Order Of Police is outraged.
The Fraternal Order of Police has notified police administrators that grounding the gun task force following a citizen complaint has "sent a very clear message" that appeasing "biased radical activists" is more important than protecting officer rights.The FOP members "have become increasingly frustrated" by the public safety and City Hall leadership's "apparent desire to bow to the political influence and pressure being exerted by these activists," whom they alleged "disregard facts, conspire to damage the reputations of officers without foundation, and use bullying tactics and threats to further their agenda against police officers."
The Fraternal Order Of Police said they "will not be bullied or threatened by activists who seek to disrupt our Police Department and damage the reputations of our police officers," and they are demanding an immediate meeting with police administrators.While issues are being sorted out, Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré said, the unit will get uniforms, the officers will get additional training in detecting weapons and "there will be a requirement that they document all searches that they conduct."
The Providence NAACP has "condemned" a reponse of the Providence Police union, following a letter issued by the Fraternal Order of Police in regard to allegations of recent incidents involving officers, which resulted in the current suspension of the unit's gun task force.
The letter, which was issued on Friday by the FOP executive board, was stated to be "in response to the Police Department Administration's and Police Commissioner's most recent knee-jerk reaction to another attempt by politically-motivated and biased radical 'activist' to undermine the police work being peformed in our city."
The letter followed an alleged incident -- and complaint filed -- by the son of community activist Kobi Dennis, who works in programs with both youth and police. "I think the FOP has responded irresponsibly to categorize [Dennis] and whoever else as "radical" activists. I thought it was inflammatory and irresponsibile and not meant to come to a meaningful solution of the issue," said Jim Vincent, NAACP Providence branch president. " [Dennis] is one of the biggest proponents of policing and community relations. To think that he is biased against police is absurd."
"They have slandered a community hero, and that's a problem," continued Vincent. "We condemn their statements. We feel that for them to feel that a father who had a son who was approached in a way that was less than professional should not be able to file a complaint -- which we have urged people repeatedly to do ... if that makes him a 'biased activist,' that's an issue. We're calling out the FOP." "We think the Commissioner did the right thing. There have been so many complaints about the task force, enough is enough. It wasn't just that one incident. This one in a series," said Vincent. "Yes, we want guns off the street -- we want guns off the street more than anyone. But we need it done in professional matter with accountability. We've worked hard on bettering relations between the police and the community. We don't need that ruined."
Providence resident and community leader Lisa Scorpio sent a message out on Facebook following the FOP response over the weekend, urging residents to contact the FOP, and to let them know they were pro-police.
"We have all read and heard about the problems with the Gun Task Force aka The Jump Out Boys. The PPD union president needs to hear from us. Please send your polite, professional email to Mr. Taft Manzottit - [email protected] Let him know your experience and concerns. Also cc: Commissioner Steven Pare so he can see our concerns are being sent to the President - [email protected] Please feel free to contact me directly if you need help or have questions. Remember WE ARE PRO POLICE just against bad policing." wrote Scorpio.
[Kobi] Dennis (pictured at right) addressed the situation on Sunday.
"I would like to know exactly who from the FOP is so frustrated? We all know the Mayor wasn't
fully supported by the police union, we all know they never truly embraced Pare because of his
RISP affiliation. Mr. Manzotti seems to not understand several of his FOP members are friends
of mine and truly are displeased with his labeling of myself and this situation," said Dennis. "The task force needs to be trained - fact.
The task force needs uniforms - fact. The task force needs to meet with the community - fact The task force has hundreds of complaints - fact. I have openly admitted to using my influence to try and bring attention to this matter in an expeditious manner for the safety of the community. My job is to prevent the next Ferguson," said Dennis. "Does the FOP think they and the task force are preventing police and civilian conflict? I hope not because myself and several other front liners are keeping the peace in these streets. I will not meet with the task force on their terms, they blew that opportunity months [ago]. They can meet with me and the community at the public forum on Friday (4-24-15 from 7 to 9pm at The Salvation Army on Broad St.)."