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Woonsocket tried to fire a cop. Now it’s paying him $500K.

The Woonsocket Police Department.Handout

The city of Woonsocket has agreed to pay a former police officer that it tried to fire $500,000 to end a years-long legal battle that placed the state’s controversial Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights in the spotlight.

Under the terms of the deal that will come before the Woonsocket City Council tonight, Enrique Sosa will receive the lump sum payout in exchange for ending any legal claims he has against the city. He also agreed to waive his right to be reemployed by the city, along with any additional benefits he may have received.

Sosa was still on the job in 2018 when he was accused of breaking into his ex-girlfriend’s house in Massachusetts, hiding in a closet, and then grabbing a knife she was holding to protect herself, cutting her hand. He admitted to those facts in court, and the case was continued without a finding. He had to meet certain conditions, and within a year, it was dismissed.

Woonsocket fired him, but he appealed the termination under LEOBOR, which is a law that dictates how police officers in Rhode Island are punished when accused of everything from minor violations to serious crimes. A LEOBOR panel sided with Sosa.

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A Superior Court judge ruled that Woonsocket violated the bill of rights, and the state Supreme Court affirmed the decision over the summer.

City Council President John Ward acknowledged that the settlement was significant, but he said the courts have spoken and any more delays would have cost the city more money.

”We are trying to clear out many of the litigated matters that the former mayor failed to resolve as quickly and cost effectively as possible,” Ward said. “Time is not our friend in matters like these.”

The bigger picture: Police chiefs and reformers have been urging state lawmakers to overhaul LEOBOR for several years, but no consensus has been reached in the House or Senate on the changes that should be made. The debate is likely to continue when the General Assembly reconvenes in January.

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This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter that also contains links to other important Rhode Island stories, information about local events, and more. If you’d like to receive it via email Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.


Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him @danmcgowan.