On Monday, November 16 at 5pm the Providence External Review Authority (PERA), the only civilian police oversight board in Rhode Island, will be holding a meeting to discuss and vote “relative to potential disciplinary action(s) to be taken against Executive Director Jose Batista, including, but not limited to possible suspension or termination of position.”
It is unknown if the board will be accepting public testimony during this meeting, but if you are interested in sending public comments or testimony to PERA, the best way to do that is to email them to City Clerk Shawn Selleck at email@example.com, and to First Deputy City Clerk Tina Mastroianni at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On November 10 Director Batista released two videos to the public that show Providence Police Sergeant Joseph Hanley assaulting a man who was in custody, on his stomach, with his hands cuffed behind his back. This was after the PERA Board voted to not release the video.
“These videos are public records,” said Director Batista at a press conference explaining his decision, “and today I have decided to honor a couple of the public requests that I have received.”
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Director Batista’s decision to release the video lead the Providence FOP, the union representing the Providence Police, to demand his immediate dismissal as Executive Director. Batista fired back on Twitter, noting the irony of a union protected by the Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights (LEOBoR) in demanding the “immediate” firing of anyone.
I should be fired “immediately,” eh?— Jose F. Batista (@j_f_batista) November 10, 2020
…what, I don’t deserve a hearing panel?
…maybe let me pick 2 out of the 3 people on that panel?
….put me on *paid* administrative leave in the meantime?
…give me a copy of the complaint in advance and let me review w counsel? 🤔 https://t.co/ufZFke65da
Batista said that he took a long time to come to the decision to release the video, and did not do so frivolously. Batista said he had tried to work within the system to get the video released, but was thwarted in his efforts. Disagreements between Director Batista and the PERA Board sprang up over his efforts to release the video, disagreements that resulted in the PERA Board investigating Director Batista and in the board not voting to fund the ongoing efforts of PERA Investigator Eugene Monteiro.
The PERA Board is made up of nine members, seven chosen by the City Council, one chosen by the City Council President (currently Sabina Matos) and one chosen by the Mayor of Providence (currently Jorge Elorza). When the boardmembers were chosen, it was instantly controversial. Two of the members chosen to sit on the PERA board by the city council, Phanida Phivilay Bessette and Kenneth Cohen, live in Johnston. Michael Fontaine, the boardmember chosen by Mayor Elorza, is an attorney from Barrington with a history of making campaign donations to Mayor Elorza and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo.
“I can think of 100 people that would serve this board at the pleasure of the people,” said then candidate for Mayor of Providence Kobi Dennis, “And they pick people that are not from Providence? Shame on them.”
In a statement, the activists that helped passed the Community Safety Act expressed their disappointment in the PERA Board nominations, saying, “Given the composition of the board, City Council President Salvatore is proving that he is trying to undermine PERA, and by extension the CSA. He has appointed a former head of the police union and a correctional officer and the appointment of Susan Derita raises even more concerns. Her donations to Salvatore indicate a clear conflict of interest. Derita has also established a reputation as a relentless police zealot in the Elmhurst neighborhood crimewatch, proudly broadcasting her strong relationship with the Providence Police Department while promoting racial profiling. Her pro-police and racial profiling bias makes her an unsuitable candidate for the PERA board.”
Fontaine, Cohen, Susan DeRita and PERA vice-chair Machiste Rankin make up what may be considered the conservative wing of the PERA board. The rest of the board, Chair Nick Figueroa and board members Deborah Wray, Elise Swearingen, Kimberly Dy and Phanida Phivilay Bessette might be considered more in tune with the mission and intent of PERA.
Emails may be directed to boardmembers through the City clerks office. As mentioned above, it is unknown if the board will be accepting public testimony during this meeting, but if you are interested in sending public comments or testimony to PERA, the best way to do that is to email them to City Clerk Shawn Selleck at email@example.com, and to First Deputy City Clerk Tina Mastroianni at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emails and messages might also be sent to Mayor Elorza and to members of the Providence City Council. They are ultimately responsible or the makeup of the PERA board.
To best contact the Mayor, try his chief of staff, Nicole Pollock at email@example.com
Providence City Council emails: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com,