Racial profiling not found in incident involving Providence firefighter, officer to be disciplined

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré said there was no racial profiling involved in an incident with a Providence Firefighter that occurred earlier this month and has since been under investigation.

The incident happened on June 3rd at 11:15 p.m. when police officers responded to a call about an armed robbery in the area of Cranston and Messer Streets in Providence.

According to Commissioner Paré, when police arrived on scene, the victim told officers two Latino men in a red sedan pulled up with a knife and gun demanding money. The victim then pointed down Messer Street at a red sedan that was parked outside of the fire station, describing that car as the suspect’s.

Two officers then approached the vehicle with guns drawn, demanding the woman in the driver’s seat get out and the man in the passenger’s seat stay in the car.

The man in the car was Terrell Paci, a Providence firefighter who was on-duty and in uniform at the time. Paci was visiting with his friend in the car at the time of the incident.

Newly released police body camera footage shows Paci identifying himself as a firefighter. Seconds later, the officers holster their guns. The footage cuts off after that.

According to Commissioner Paré, one of the officers, Nathaniel Colicci– whose body camera footage was released– then leaves the scene and continues his search for the armed robbery suspects. The other officer, Matthew Sandorse, stays on scene and asks to search the car Paci was in.

“I feel like it’s more of a question of why did he ask me to search after he identified me as a firefighter?” said Paci.

He and the NAACP of Providence view the incident as racial profiling.

“I find it very hard to believe if it was a white firefighter, the white police officer would have asked to search the vehicle,” said Jim Vincent, President of the Providence chapter of the NAACP.

Paré said this was an unfortunate incident, but not an act of racial profiling.

“I can understand the firefighter’s perception and his belief that he was selected and treated because of his race,” said Paré.

Paré also said the search of the vehicle was unnecessary and caused additional trauma.

“I think it was a bit insensitive and could have been handled differently,” said Paré.

At Tuesday’s press briefing, Paré announced his officers need to undergo additional sensitivity and cultural awareness training.

“We need to do a better job on the police side. There will be accountability,” said Paré.

Officer Sandorse is now being disciplined for not turning on his body camera throughout the incident.

“That’s egregious. That’s a serious offense,” said Vincent. “I expect the police department to really reprimand this officer.”

In addition Paré said, “There’s no excuse for not turning it on… We continue to hold our officers accountable for when they don’t engage it because it just loses the public’s trust.”

Paré said the department has not yet determined the specific discipline for Officer Sandorse.

Categories: News, Providence, Rhode Island