1/6/2014Rhode Island: ACLU Challenges Parking Ticket Whitewash
Police in Cranston, Rhode Island accused of punishing city councilmen with parking tickets for rejecting police pay raise.
Police officers in Cranston, Rhode Island took out their frustration on two city councilmen who rejected a proposed departmental pay increase by blitzing their wards with parking tickets in November. An internal investigation conducted by the police department is expected to clear the police department of any wrong doing, and the local American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) chapter cried foul on Thursday with a letter challenging Mayor Allan Fung's proposal to commission an "independent" review to confirm the results of the internal affairs report.
On November 14, the city council's finance committee met to consider a deal with the police union that would give a more than ten percent raise to the most senior officers. Councilmen Paul Archetto, Steve Stycos and two at-large members voted against it. In the two days following the vote, the number of tickets issued jumped thirty-fold -- but only in the wards represented by Archetto and Stycos.
In the two weeks prior to the vote, 17 tickets were issued in the city. In the two days after the vote, 128 were issued in Wards Two and Three. The union's Twitter feed was filled with messages confirming that the union was taking the vote personally.
"Nothing worse than being told how much your appreciated by people who don't really mean it," the International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local 301 tweeted. "Would rather hear nothing at all. #Stykos."
When Stycos collected the ticketing data and went public with proof of retaliation, Mayor Fung agreed to hire Louis F. Stephens as an outside investigator.
"The independent consultant will not supplant the Internal Affairs investigation, but rather will assess the investigative process to confirm that all facts and circumstances are examined thoroughly and professionally," a December 23 statement from Mayor Fung's office explained. "The role of the independent consultant will be to review the IA report to ensure that it is complete, thorough and that its finding are supported by facts and that the facts in turn support its conclusion."
The ACLU cited this approach as evidence that the city is not interested in a truly independent investigation.
"While the findings of a report can indeed be supported by facts which lead to inevitable conclusions, that begs the question of whether all the relevant facts were relied upon and reported in the first place," Rhode Island ACLU Executive Director Steven Brown wrote in a letter to Fung. "If not, the findings are rather meaningless, as is their 'review.'"
In 2006, a US senator accused a previous mayor of Cranston of approving a no-bid speed camera contract in return for campaign cash.