Dee from the Desk: Pell takes on the police

New reports indicate that before Clay Pell’s Prius was stolen in February the gubernatorial candidate misplaced the car and alerted police back in December.

He then found the car and notified the police, that he had located the vehicle.

In a press release from Pell’s campaign, however, it seems he takes issue with the response of the police.

The statement by campaign manager Devin Driscoll says in part,

“An officer arrived quickly, and took his statement. Afterward, Clay walked to the coffee shop near his home, and noticed the car was parked nearby. Roughly twenty minutes had passed since Clay had spoken with the officer, and he immediately called the police and informed them he had found the vehicle. “

“The dispatcher told Clay another patrol would be sent to take his statement. Clay waited for nearly two hours for the officer to arrive, and when he did, the officer never stepped out of his patrol vehicle. He asked Clay if he had misplaced the car, and Clay replied that he had. “

Is it relevant that Pell had to wait almost two hours so police could arrive to get a report about a non-stolen vehicle? The statement indicates that when police were responding to a possible automobile theft they were prompt to arrive on scene however when he reported the car was found it took “nearly two hours” for them to return.

This is probably because there is a lot of crime in Providence, a lot more than there is in Newport or other Rhode Island communities. Providence Police are stretched pretty thin trying to avoid overtime costs and keep the city safe from actual violent crime. So it is not overly surprising that Providence Police took a little while to respond to take down a report of a car found. I am sure other Rhode Islanders have dealt with similar frustrations when trying to report small crimes in the city but they have never taken it to the press.

When the police did respond the patrolman did not exit the vehicle according to Pell. Well, once again, not overly surprising since the officer probably had more pressing business to attend to since after all the car was found in tact and safe.

Secondly the statement goes on to point out the inaccuracies in the police report. Driscoll says in the statement, “The incident report errs on several key details. The report of the first officer, who took Clay’s statement that the car was missing, notes that he arrived at Clay’s home at 2:25 pm. The report of the second officer, who took Clay’s statement after the car was found, states he arrived at 2:00 pm – before the first officer had taken Clay’s statement, and long before the second officer and Clay actually spoke. “

“The report notes the car was running when the second officer arrived, which it was. Clay had started the car because it was cold and he had been waiting for nearly two hours. Additionally, the report claims the doors were locked and the interior showed no sign of damage – neither of which could have observed without exiting the squad car. And, finally, the report does not include either the officer asking Clay if he had misplaced the car, or Clay’s response.”

This part seems pretty accusatory of Providence Police. Of course there was no damage to the car since Pell by his own admission just simply misplaced it. Why should to officer need to get out of the vehicle? If there was anything seriously wrong, Pell would have reported it.

Losing your car and reporting it missing is absent-minded but innocent. Pell probably was really concerned the car was stolen. While it is silly and great fodder for the blogosphere and talk radio it is innocent. The real problem here is the fact that somehow this incident is being turned on police.

Although it might not seem like it when you live on the East Side, the city of Providence is riddled with real crime and the police department unfortunately because of budgetary issues is stretched pretty thin. As a result police need to focus on keeping the community safe, not taking reports of crimes that didn’t happen. Pell needs to get out into the community more and talk to family’s who are legitimately concerned about public safety. It is one of the main issues in urban areas.

While it is frustrating being in Clay Pell’s position, waiting for the police to arrive, the candidate should understand the work of police and the possibility that they could have been busy with other more serious crime at the time of the call. Pell did the right thing calling police when he thought the vehicle was stolen and alerting them when it was found. Now that the matter is public fodder instead of criticizing police through his campaign perhaps he should thank them.

Providence is a city, with crime. Perhaps if Clay Pell spent more time on the city’s south side he would see some of the issues that police deal with. Maybe the chief should take Pell on a ride along so that the candidate can experience the real work of the Providence Police.

The criticisms of the city’s police force which is already stretched thin suggest that Pell is out of touch with the actual problems that plague city life.  Although he may be frustrated with the reports in the media, Pell needs to step back and look at the big picture and the actual work of the Providence Police Department. While his missing car that was found was a huge issue to him, it might be possible that the crime around the city goes beyond Clay Pell and his car.

Follow me on twitter: @deedequattro

Dee DeQuattro is the assignment desk manager and digital news coordinator for ABC6. She studied politics and communications and holds a master’s degree from Providence College. Follow her on twitter @deedequattro and log on to ABC6 .com for her latest in depth coverage of politics and news.