Yesterday the Providence City Council Committee on Finance heard public comment on a proposed contract with members of the Providence Police Department. Each person who spoke at the meeting testified against approving the contract and specifically mentioned the salary component, which would provide officers with a 13.5% increase in pay by the end of July. Another increase of 3.75% would be automatically applied next year resulting in a total salary increase of about 15 million dollars.
The document provided by the police union, the Providence Fraternal Order of Police, shows a proposed increase of 4.5% per year in 2019, 2020, and 2021, with an increase of 3.75% in 2022. The proposal states that wage payments, including those from previous years, must be completed by July 31st, 2021 or within 30 days of approving the agreement. The salary increase for the years 2019, 2020, and 2021 would amount to 13.5%, while the total increase would amount to 17.25%.
The city’s Finance Department provided a fiscal impact statement for the proposed police contract which states that the total increase in officer salaries by the end of the contract in 2022 would equal roughly 15 million dollars, or $15,714,818 exactly.
Testimony often indirectly referenced the social movement Black Lives Matter, with community members mentioning the protests that occurred in Providence throughout the summer of 2020 as evidence that the City Council should not approve the salary increase for police officers. Almost all of these protests called for defunding police. Some people recommended alternatives such as providing mental health services, giving financial assistance to residents struggling due to Covid-19, or supporting the City’s preparation for the impacts of climate change. Another person spoke about Jhamal Gonsalves, suggesting that the Providence Police Department should not be rewarded for allowing that incident to occur. A schoolteacher asked for additional funding for Providence Public Schools, while someone else referenced the historic 9 hour City Council meeting where 200 people testified in support of defunding Providence Police.
One person noted that some people were struggling to enter the meeting, which was held on Zoom. After the meeting ended people online talked about or shared screen-recorded videos of them joining the meeting and not being allowed to speak because they did not fill out a form, or attempting to log in and not being allowed to join at all.