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Providence police captain will fight chief’s move to fire him after alleged assault of handcuffed man

Captain Stephen Gencarella has requested a hearing on charges he violated department rules and regulations. The incident is being investigated by the department and the attorney general’s office.

The Providence Public Safety Complex in Providence.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

PROVIDENCE — A Providence police captain who was caught on video smashing a handcuffed man’s face into the pavement last month will fight the chief’s attempt to fire him.

Captain Stephen Gencarella, a 25-year veteran, is still under criminal investigation by the attorney general’s office and the police department for the alleged assault.

The Providence Police Department charged Gencarella last week with six violations of the department rules and regulations.

Police Chief Colonel Hugh T. Clements Jr. recommended that Gencarella either resign or be fired, saying in an Aug. 3 letter to the captain that the assault violated policies on use of force, violated the handcuffed man’s civil rights, as well as criminal law.


Gencarella has instead requested a hearing under the Rhode Island Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, which governs how police officers are disciplined.

Providence lawyer Vincent Ragosta Jr., who is representing the city of Providence, confirmed Tuesday that Gencarella’s lawyer, Michael J. Colucci of Warwick, has asked for a hearing. Colucci declined comment.

A panel of three law enforcement officers will consider the administrative charges against Gencarella — courtesy, truthfulness, obedience to laws and rules, standard of conduct, rules governing conduct, and demeanor — and decide his punishment.

The captain, who has won awards for his years of service, has been out on injured leave after the July 3 incident at India Point Park.

A 51-second cellphone video showed him trying to help another supervisor, Lieutenant Matthew Jennette, arrest a man who became combative when the police wanted to tow his vehicle for blocking traffic.

Gencarella and Jennette succeeded in handcuffing 21-year-old Armando Rivas, who appeared to stop resisting after he was handcuffed and left face-down on the pavement. Then, Gencarella could be seen grabbing Rivas by his hair and smashing his face into the road.


Gencarella wrote in his after-action report that he used a “palm-heel strike” at the back of Rivas’ head, which the chief noted was not what actually happened.

There was no report of medical treatment but a mugshot of Rivas shows what appears to be a bruise under one eye. He pleaded no contest on July 5 to obstructing police, resisting arrest, and two counts of simple assault on the officers; he was placed on probation for a year.

Amanda Milkovits can be reached at amanda.milkovits@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMilkovits.