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National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers Voices Concerns Regarding Appointment of Non-Law Enforcement Person To Police Command Position


Dated: Monday September 06, 2021

In recent conversations with members of the Rhode Island Guardians Association, a local NABLEO chapter, as regards the appointment of Michael Stephens, current Providence Director of Recreation Services, to the rank of Major within the Providence, RI Police Department, we find that this appointment should be a matter of serious concern, regardless of assertions that he will not wear a police uniform or carry a firearm.

According to the job description for the position he is slated to fill, Stephens will be responsible for supervising the Police Training Bureau and Training Academy as well as the promotional process and testing acquisition for the supervisory ranks of Sergeant, Lieutenant, and Captain, as well as for the recruitment, selection, retention, training of all future recruits. He will also administer the development and execution of interventions designed to reduce responses to calls that are more appropriate for specialized services like mental health and other counseling supports. The position shall be responsible for building and strengthening trust and respect within the community.

Regardless of his many years of experience in community relations and diversion services, his lack of any relevant law enforcement experience or background make him unqualified to hold a law enforcement ranking position which entitles him to direct the activities of sworn police personnel. This selection not only shows a total lack of consideration, respect and demeaning of the qualifications of those officers of color within the Rhode Island law enforcement community who were candidates for this position, but also calls to question the judgement of Mayor Elorza in making administrative decisions that ultimately effect public safety.

While we fully recognize Mr. Stephens capabilities as a community organizer and someone who has worked to build bridges between the community and police for a number of years, this appointment of an unqualified person will have no credibility with the Command Staff or rank and file, and ultimately will continue to mean that there will still be no qualified African American law enforcement officer with a voice at the top of the Providence Police Department.

We urge Mayor Elorza to strongly consider the proposal put forward by Council President John Igliozzi to both change the title and job description for this position. The police-classified position can then be re-posted for a candidate with more credible qualifications. We believe that to be the only way that both the Police Department and the community will be properly served.

The National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, Inc, a 501.(c).(3) non-profit, is a premier national organization representing the interests and concerns of African American, Latino and other criminal justice practitioners of color serving in law enforcement, corrections, and investigative agencies throughout the United States, and the communities in which they serve.

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