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PERA investigator issues report on PVD Police Sergeant Hanley’s use of force



Sergeant Hanley is observed in the following acts after the complainant is in handcuffs and lying on the ground in the prone position

Eugene Monteiro, the investigator for the Providence External Review Authority (PERA) issued a report on the actions of Providence Police Sergeant Joseph Hanley after reviewing civilian phone and police body camera footage of the incident.

The report was issued on September 1 and released to the public yesterday. In the report, Monteiro writes:

Using video from the BWC (X6039A9J4) and the cell phone footage, Sergeant Hanley is observed in the following acts after the complainant is in handcuffs and lying on the ground in the prone position:

  • Kneeling on the back of his neck/shoulder (Sergeant Hanley appears to use the open car door as support, lift his supporting foot off the ground bearing his full weight on the complainant’s neck and shoulder)
  • Punch to the ribs (left side)
  • Kick to the rib area
  • Kick to the head
  • Walking on the back of the complainant’s lower legs

NOTE: During the assault(s) Sergeant Hanley continued to verbally taunt the complainant.

From viewing the video provided by the witness; an individual, now known to be a Detective of the Providence Police (Detective #1) appears to kick and step on the complainant’s cell phone which fell to the ground.

The facts of the case, as presented in the PERA report:

On April 19, 2020, at approximately 7:55 pm Providence Police officers responded to a domestic dispute at a home near the corner of Tell Street and Knight Street in Providence. This original incident resulted in the arrest of a 28-year-old Woonsocket man who was charged with domestic disorderly, obstruction and resisting arrest. 

According to OPR [Providence Police Department, Office of Professional Responsibility] and statements by the police officers on scene, there were several people in and outside of the reported location who were shouting at the police during the initial arrest. Among these individuals was the complainant. 

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According to statements by the police officers on scene; after the original arrest was made and the individual was transported to Central Station, the complainant was allegedly walking away from the scene towards Tell Street, possibly videotaping and yelling at the police. (There is no Body Camera footage of this interaction.) 

OPR stated the decision to detain the complainant was made by Sergeant Hanley, which resulted in the arrest of the complainant for Disorderly Conduct and Resisting Arrest. Additionally, a woman who was with the complainant at the time was also arrested and charged with Obstruction.

After the arrest of the man charged with domestic disorderly, Sergeant Hanley and and at least three officers followed the complainant to a car. From the report:

Sergeant Hanley, Patrolman #2 and Patrolman #3 forcibly removed the complainant from the vehicle to the ground; face down in the prone position.

Detective # 1 also on-scene approaches the vehicle on the driver’s side door and attempts to remove a female from the driver’s seat.

Detective #1 and Patrolman #3 remove a woman from the driver’s seat of the vehicle. She is charged with Obstruction.

Sergeant Hanley and Patrolman #2 secure the complainant in handcuffs. During the incident Sergeant Hanley can be heard several times verbally taunting the victim and repeating “you asked for this,” “You want to be a tough guy”, along with other vulgar remarks.

It is at this time, after the complainant is handcuffed and restrained, that Sergeant Hanley allegedly engages in the assaultive behavior mentioned above.

Upon reviewing the PERA report, Steven Brown, Executive Director of the Rhode Island ACLU writes:

“The report issued by the Providence External Review Authority about the pending assault case involving Sergeant Joseph Hanley is deeply troubling for a number of reasons. Not only does the report describe assaultive behavior toward a handcuffed suspect, but it also details the unconscionable failure of other officers to restrain Sergeant Hanley while he allegedly engaged in this conduct.

“However, we think it is also important not to overlook another finding of the report: the failure of Providence police officers to take seriously their obligation to use their body-worn cameras when interacting with the public. In clear violation of departmental policy, two of the three officers on the scene of the incident, including Sergeant Hanley, did not record their encounter with the suspect. 

“Unfortunately, it is clear this is not an anomaly. In another highly publicized incident in June, one of two officers involved in a controversial guns-drawn encounter with a Black firefighter in front of his fire station failed to activate his camera. According to the response we received to an Access to Public Records Act request, this is not surprising. Between January 2018 and June 2020, only 20 Providence officers were disciplined for failing to activate their body cameras, and none received anything more than a verbal reprimand for this indisputable violation of departmental policy.

“The City’s purchase and use of body-worn cameras was supposed to promote transparency and accountability. Yet these two recent incidents – and the police department’s continued refusal to release the body camera footage from the one officer who recorded the Hanley incident – tell a different story. The body camera policy is regularly flouted, violations are rarely punished, and the transparency these cameras were supposed to provide the public is ignored. We urge the City Council to take action to codify strong standards on the use of these cameras and on the public’s ability to access the recordings in a timely manner.” 

As noted in Monteiro’s report to PERA:

According to video evidence there were a minimum of four officers on scene during the arrest of the complainant.

According to the Internal Investigation conducted by the Providence Police Department none of the following points were addressed with the officers on-scene and involved in the arrest of
the complainant:

  • No officers on scene were questioned about the Use of Force used by Sergeant Hanley.
  • No officers on scene were questioned about their failure to report any Use of Force concerns.
  • No officers on scene were questioned about their failure to intervene to prevent the Use of Force incident.

About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.