Providence council strikes to fill contested police neighborhood relations job

THE PROVIDENCE CITY COUNCIL is moving ahead with budget changes to finalize and fill a Providence Police Department community relations role, after Mayor Jorge O. Elorza's original pick, Michael Stephens, above, drew criticism for his lack of law enforcement experience. / COURTESY CITY OF PROVIDENCE
THE PROVIDENCE CITY COUNCIL is shifting forward with finances modifications to finalize and fill a Providence Police Department neighborhood relations position, after Mayor Jorge O. Elorza’s unique decide, Michael Stephens, above, drew criticism for his lack of legislation enforcement expertise. / COURTESY CITY OF PROVIDENCE

PROVIDENCE More than eight months after Mayor Jorge O. Elorza introduced his controversial decide for a brand new Providence Police neighborhood relations put up, metropolis lawmakers are shifting to formalize and fill the job.

The City Council Finance Committee on April 5 voted to ship again to the complete council a series of modifications to its fiscal 2021 finances turning what was initially meant to be a sworn legislation enforcement officer place right into a civilian “administrator of community relations and diversion services,” with a pay minimize. The council should approve these modifications earlier than the job will be crammed.

Whether Michael Stephens, town recreation director initially chosen by Elorza for the job, will nonetheless tackle that position is unclear. Stephens’ appointment initially drew backlash from native and nationwide police organizations, in addition to council members, due to his lack of legislation enforcement expertise.

The controversy took one other flip after City Council President John J. Igliozzi alleged the hiring course of was rigged.

Igliozzi maintained in an interview Friday that the way in which Stephens was chosen for the job was “inappropriate,” criticizing Police Commissioner Steven Paré for “trying to obfuscate” the truth that Stephens was a part of the hiring committee earlier than later turning into a candidate. There have been additionally allegations that Stephens was not one of many three finalists the committee really helpful to the mayor. Some raised questions over when the search was opened to non-law enforcement officers. 

Paré didn’t instantly reply to inquiries looking for remark however disputed these allegations in a listening to earlier than the Finance Committee in November. 

Elorza additionally mentioned beforehand that Igliozzi’s questions in regards to the hiring course of have been politically motivated. The mayor defended the method and his determination to rent Stephens.

Conflicting narratives have nonetheless not been resolved. 

But the City Council is shifting forward with finances modifications wanted to formalize and fill the place.

We have to put politics and bad policy aside and put something forward that at least shows there’s a validity in addressing community needs,” Igliozzi mentioned.

While Igliozzi beforehand known as for town to reopen the search course of, he mentioned Friday it was as much as town administration and police division to make that decision.

If they choose to appoint him, he’s going to have to go above and beyond to give credibility to himself and his position,” Igliozzi mentioned.

Theresa Agonia, Elorza’s chief of exterior affairs, mentioned in an emailed assertion that the mayor is “eager to get this critical work off the ground.”

“The mayor and the City Council agree on the importance of this work and we are glad the council has moved this out of committee,” Agonia mentioned.

Asked about whether or not Stephens would nonetheless be appointed to the job, or to touch upon the decrease wage vary – downgraded from $116,000-$137,000 to $99,500-$126,000 – that accompanies the renaming and reclassifying of the place, Agonia mentioned “At this point, everyone is in agreement that the most important thing is to get this work started.”

Stephens additionally didn’t reply to messages looking for remark.

Updated to incorporate a response from the Elorza administration. 

Nancy Lavin is a PBN employees author. You might attain her at

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