PROVIDENCE — The Providence police officer who was acquitted in November of punching his political opponent at a State House abortion rights rally is being investigated after a video of him sleeping during a detail recently surfaced.
Officer Jeann Lugo was working a detail in the city in June when someone with a cellphone crept up to his cruiser and filmed him fast asleep, his head lolling to one side, while sitting in the driver’s seat. The video, which was viewed by the Globe, was shared on Facebook over the weekend with the caption “LONG NIGHT IN THE CITY OF PROVIDENCE.” The video has since been removed. The original video has since been removed, but was shared without audio on Wednesday by Black Lives Matter Rhode Island Political Action Committee.
Lugo was placed on desk duty Monday while the department conducts an internal affairs investigation, Chief Oscar Perez confirmed. Lugo declined comment Monday afternoon.
Lugo hasn’t been back to work at the Providence Police Department for very long. In April, a panel under the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights law, known as LEOBOR, voted to suspend him without pay for 10 days for the incident outside the State House.
Lugo was a Republican candidate for state Senate District 29 seat in Warwick when he went to an abortion-rights rally at the State House in June 2022 after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. As a disturbance broke out among some of the rally attendees, Lugo, who was off-duty, was caught on video punching his political opponent, Jennifer Rourke, a progressive and co-founder of the R.I. Political Cooperative.
Lugo told a Globe reporter that he’d “stepped in to protect someone that a group of agitators was attacking.”
Lugo was charged with simple assault and disorderly conduct, as well as numerous departmental charges. Then-Chief Hugh T. Clements Jr. wanted Lugo fired over the incident, writing in an internal affairs document: “I have lost confidence in [Lugo’s] capacity and ability to exercise self-control and to conduct yourself in a civil, respectful, and professional manner.”
However, a District Court judge acquitted Lugo of charges in November, concluding that the incident was “a melee” and the off-duty officer’s actions were justified by his duty to “maintain public order.”
Then this spring, the three law enforcement officers on the LEOBOR panel rejected Clements’ recommendation to fire Lugo.
Perez declined comment on the internal affairs investigation, citing limitations under LEOBOR, which governs how police officers are disciplined.
“The top priority of the Providence Police Department is public safety and professionalism of our officers,” Perez said. “The actions of one does not represent the men and women who work so hard to keep the city safe.”
On Wednesday, the Black Lives Matter Rhode Island Political Action Committee shared the video on social media, without the audio. The organization said that “the people of Providence deserve to see what their tax dollars are going towards, a police officer who disgraced his department and can’t do his job.”
We want to thank the brave citizen who captured this video and shared it with us under the agreement that their identity would remain anonymous. This video has had the sound removed to protect the identity of involved parties. We believe the people of Providence deserve to see… pic.twitter.com/3dS21yNJVU— Black Lives Matter RI PAC (@blmripac) July 19, 2023
BLM RI PAC said that “Officer Lugo’s dereliction of duties has stained the reputation of the Providence Police Department,” and the organization called for the repeal of LEOBOR in the next legislative session.
“We have undeniable proof that this system protects nobody but officers who are a danger to the communities they serve and are unfit to carry out the duties of a law enforcement officer,” BLM RI PAC said in a statement.
This story has been updated with statements and a tweet from Black Lives Matter Rhode Island Political Action Committee.