East Providence police union raising concerns over soon-to-be installed traffic cameras

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – Traffic cameras will soon be coming to intersections and schools across East Providence, but the implementation has the city’s police union concerned.

The International Brotherhood of Police Officers Local 569 sent a letter to East Providence Mayor Bob DaSilva last week, asking to bargain with the city to get more police officers and supervisors hired to help with the workload they say will come with these cameras.

“The Mayor has requested that the East Providence Police Traffic Enforcement Division handle the reviewing of footage and issuing of violations. The East Providence Police Department is already understaffed. The Traffic Division currently staffs one Sergeant and three patrol officers.

The Sergeant and Officers are tasked with handling fatal and serious motor vehicle crash investigations, other motor vehicle accidents, traffic enforcement, radar details, investigation of citizen traffic complaints, hit and run investigations, motor vehicle traffic stops, traffic flow studies, and federal and state grant requests for participation in click it or ticket, distracted driving, child passenger safety services, and DUI. On top of these duties each officer has their own individual responsibilities outside of the above-listed tasks,” the union wrote in a Facebook post.

Union members said they spoke to members of the Pawtucket Police Department who use the same contractor for traffic cameras, Sensys Gatso, and they told them they had to double their traffic division from two to four when the cameras were installed.

“Just in our neighboring city of Pawtucket, they’re tasked with processing and reviewing hundreds of citations a day, and we feel as though we just don’t have the staffing at this point to meet those needs,” said Local 569 President Patrick Kelley.

Kelley said the union decided to step in after noticing they were left out of the conversations. He claims they learned of the cameras when the city sent out a press release on Friday.

“We had nothing to do with this, we were never asked to sit down, to bargain the matter or asked for any sort of input, and it was at that point, with members of my union, reached out to me and asked me to step in and issue the Demand to Bargain.”

The letter was sent on May 4, Kelley said, and they haven’t yet received a response from the mayor.

“We’ve always reached out to the mayor on certain things and sometimes we have had success in bargaining some issues, other times we haven’t. Moreso than not, we reached out to him, we haven’t had any response from his administration. It’s concerning to us cause we’d like to bargain in good faith.”

The police union also has concerns about how the money collected from citations will be used.

The fine for running through a red light intersection is $85. The fine for speeding in a School Safety Zone is $50.

“We want to make it clear that the police department, who the Mayor has tasked with retaining all powers and responsibility for issuing violations, will not directly receive any of the funds. That being said, we hope the funds allocated back to the City of East Providence are done transparently. Out of the funds that will be obtained during the speed and red light camera enforcement, a large percentage will go to the traffic company, Sensys Gatso, and the remaining portion will go to the State of Rhode Island and the City of East Providence,” union members added in the Facebook post.

Chief of Police William Nebus said the speed cameras are a need in the city.

“We do have some school crossing guards that are helping the children cross, and they’ve actually called for police assistance because operators are not slowing down and heeding to their demands. So there is some kind of need for this, we do see some safety issues involved, but we also see the union’s perspective about who’s actually going to be doing the work behind this. I’m fully confident that we can work out an agreement,” Nebus said.

The cameras will be installed in the following intersections:

  • Pawtucket Avenue & Warren Avenue
  • Pawtucket Avenue & Taunton Avenue
  • Broadway & Warren Avenue
  • Pawtucket Avenue & Veterans Memorial Parkway
  • Newport Avenue & Ferris Avenue
  • Wampanoag Trail & Mink Street
  • N Broadway & Roger Williams Avenue
  • Highland Avenue & Catamore Blvd.
  • Taunton Avenue & Purchase Street
  • Broadway & Grosvenor Avenue

The cameras will be installed in the following school zones:

  • St. Mary’s Academy Bay View School (3070 Pawtucket Ave.)
  • Kent Heights School (2680 Pawtucket Ave.)
  • Riverside Middle School (179 Forbes St.)
  • St. Margaret School (42 Bishop Ave.)
  • East Providence High School (2000 Pawtucket Ave.)

ABC6 reached out to Mayor Bob DaSilva for a response to the union’s comments and received the following statement:

“The Administration was surprised by the IBPO Local 569’s post on its Facebook page. The post contains numerous, factually inaccurate statements and issues that are not connected to collective bargaining. We are not accustomed to airing collective bargaining or issues of grievances on social media and we find the IBPO Local 569’s post unproductive.

The demand to bargain letter was sent by the union on Tuesday, May 4, 2021 at 10:57 p.m. and the mayor has not yet had an opportunity to respond to it.

Additionally, we have no data points in which to review as the cameras have not yet been installed. Once installed and operational, we will have a month of warning citation data collected to determine if the police department needs more manpower to handle the workflow. Chief William Nebus has the ability to temporarily assign personnel to the traffic division to deal with any workflow increases that should arise as a result of this new public safety program.

In regard to transparency of any funds that may be generated as a result of this safety program, the funds will be handled in the same way current fine income is handled. It is counted as revenue in the budget and is completely transparent.”

As for when the cameras will be installed and go online, the city hasn’t yet nailed down a date. The program will begin with a 30-day warning period.

“We do not have a firm date as the company needs to get authorization from the state and utility companies prior to installing their equipment,” city spokeswoman Patricia Resende said in a statement. “Once the cameras and all proper signage are installed, we will commence a 30-day warning notice to residents. Those who speed through school zones or fail to stop at red traffic control signals will be mailed a warning notice. We want to ensure that our residents are fully informed of the program. We have posted in the local paper, sent notices with the City’s water bill and posted the details to social media.”

© WLNE-TV 2021

Categories: News, Regional News, Rhode Island