A Providence patrolman who shouted “Who wants some more?” after police pepper sprayed people in South Providence late last month has been suspended without pay for 10 days.
Patrolman Patrick Hourahan’s statement was captured on body camera and bystander video in the Sayles Street incident in late June, sparking criticism from critics of the police and the leadership of the department itself.
Local activists said police attacked, unprovoked, a group of more than 20 children, ranging from 1 year old to 17 years old. The city’s public safety commissioner called that inaccurate, and the videos released so far have not corroborated the more incendiary descriptions, but police did say that some children were unintentionally hit by officers’ pepper spray as they tried to get control of a volatile situation.
While they said they’d review officers’ use of force, the early criticism from police officials focused on statements police made on scene. A veteran police sergeant, Gregory Paolo, retired in the wake of the internal investigation, WPRI reported. Speaking to another officer, Paolo referred to one person involved in the incident as a “she-male” in a moment caught on body cam footage.
Police officials had previously criticized Hourahan’s “Who wants some more?” statement and suggested that discipline was coming.
“That’s not language that we accept,” Public Safety Commissioner Steven M. Paré said at a news conference earlier this month. “We shouldn’t be talking that way, and when we complete all this review, there will be responsibility and accountability for that.”
Paré said Saturday that Hourahan’s comments “escalated” the situation, resulting in his punishment. A 10-day suspension could trigger a process under the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, but Hourahan accepted it, Paré said.
Another officer will be punished for pushing a person who was standing on his body camera, Paré said. He said he wasn’t sure if the officer has accepted the punishment, which will likely be less than a suspension and might be a disciplinary letter. Paré said the department understood why the officer did what he did but described it as “a bit aggressive.”
Hourahan was part of the 67th training academy, which graduated in 2014. His suspension is effectively a two-week one, because he also won’t be able to take shifts for his regular off-days, the union representing him said.
The union, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 3, blasted the suspension, criticizing Paré and Mayor Jorge Elorza.
“We think this discipline is an example of how out of touch the mayor and commissioner are when it comes to the reality officers live and deal with on a daily basis,” Michael Imondi, the president, said in a written statement. “Maybe they should come to these disturbances and mediate for us and guide the officers on how to respond to a situation. Instead they criticize from their respective offices and demean the profession as though it’s something we should be embarrassed of. Sorry to disappoint, we will not be broken.”
Paré responded Saturday: “I have the utmost respect for police officers doing a difficult job that they have and do every day. To characterize my role and responsibility as demeaning and vilifying police officers is preposterous. The Providence Police Department is an outstanding agency, made up of the greatest police officers I have met. This is an opportunity to learn and improve in our professionalism.”
Someone set up a GoFundMe for Hourahan on Friday; the union was not directly involved in creating the GoFundMe, Imondi said, but it does support him. Imondi was one of the many police officers listed as donors. Other officers who donated included those who were there on Sayles Street that day. It’s not clear who set up the GoFundMe.
The fundraiser racked up about $15,000 overnight Friday into Saturday morning, surpassing the original $5,000 goal within hours. A GoFundMe for one of the families involved in the Sayles Street incident has raised slightly less money in two weeks.
Several people, including juveniles, were arrested that day, police previously said.
Though some officers were privately shocked at the suspension, Black Lives Matter RI PAC, a political action committee that’s supported the Sayles Street family, said it wasn’t nearly enough.
“In order to root out violent policing we must understand that suspensions of officers will not suffice,” Harrison Tuttle, the group’s executive director, said in a written statement. “We must continue to look for alternative ways that substitute law enforcement with health and human services that meet our needs and the needs of our communities.”