RI officers on alert following protests targeting police in Baltimore

By: Rebecca Turco

Email: rturco@abc6.com

EAST PROVIDENCE – Police in Baltimore are warning law enforcement nationwide to be on alert, after finding out that gang members may be organizing to “take out” officers.

RI State Police Col. Steven O’Donnell tells ABC6 News his team is keeping an eye on what is happening down South. “We live in a global country where things happen across the board,” he explained. “We are prepared to respond if necessary.”

Jim Vincent, the head of the Providence chapter of the NAACP, feels if Baltimore residents had had more open dialogue with police, these protests may not have happened, or may not have gotten to this point. “[Freddie Gray’s death was] the spark that lit off decades worth of frustration, decades worth of anguish,” Vincent said. “I think that’s what happens when you don’t have dialogue with the community and when the community doesn’t feel like they have access to a police department.”

Col. O’Donnell agrees, and that is part of the reason he helps host ongoing police forums with local communities, like the one in East Providence on Monday night.

People who came out to meet with police tell us they appreciate having a way to express their concerns. “There should be a consistency,” expressed Julio Olivo of Pawtucket.

“I think there’s a distortion between cops and the community,” agreed Ben Andrews of Woonsocket.

Col. O’Donnell keeps in touch with the NAACP and other local groups to keep a pulse on what’s happening here and to determine if additional community forums are necessary.

© WLNE-TV 2015