Former Providence police chief dies

By: Rebecca Turco


PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Former Providence Police Chief Urbano “Barney” Prignano, Jr. has died.

Prignano, 75, was the top cop under Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, until he was forced out amid scandal during Operation Plunder Dome.

Warwick Police Chief Col. Stephen McCartney met Prignano in the 1970s, when they both worked at the Providence Police Department. McCartney called Prignano: "Probably one of the more dedicated policemen I can remember in my career."

McCartney describes Prignano’s personality as colorful. "We used to say Barney’s bark was bigger than his bite,” McCartney said. “He was always barking at everybody about something."

Both men made their way up the ranks, until Prignano eventually became chief in the mid-90’s under Mayor Cianci. McCartney was the director of the investigative division from 1995 through 1999, when he left the department.

McCartney describes Prignano as an expert in wiretapping. Prignano made some big-name arrests during his time as chief.

"I really felt his intensity, his motivation,” said McCartney. “I felt that this guy is really dedicated in trying to make the city of Providence better."

But, scandals ensued and things began unraveling during Operation Plunder Dome. Prignano was forced out in 2001. He later testified under immunity during the trial that he gave some officers cheat sheets for their promotional exams.

Prignano fought for his pension, which was revoked in 2008, then reinstated in 2011, when the state supreme court ruled that city employees must be convicted of a crime before they are stripped of their pensions.

McCartney does not want people to remember Prignano by his scandals: "I can only remember Barney one way – he was a cop’s cop who gave it everything that he had."

Prignano is survived by his two daughters.

© WLNE-TV 2017