The Rhode Island Center for Justice stands with Jose Batista, Executive Director of the Providence External Review Authority (PERA), established by the Providence City Council to function as a civilian police oversight board.
On November 10th, Director Batista released two videos from an April 19, 2020 incident showing Sergeant Hanley handcuffing and being physically and verbally violent towards a member of the public. According to a PERA investigation, while the man was handcuffed and lying on the ground, Sergeant Hanley:
- Kneeled on the back of his neck/shoulder, bearing his full weight on the man’s upper body,
- Punched and kicking him in the ribs,
- Kicked him in the head,
- Walked on the back of his lower legs,
- And verbally taunted him.
Sergeant Hanley was charged with assault for the incident. Although there were at least four officers on the scene, only one engaged his body camera. No officers on the scene were questioned about Hanley’s use of force, their failure to intervene to prevent use of force, or their failure to report the use of force.
Despite these findings, the PERA Board voted to keep the public from seeing the videos that it relied upon in its investigation: a cell phone video taken by a member of the public and video from the only body cam that had been turned on. Director Batista nonetheless released them in response to public requests, in the name of transparency and accountability that PERA was created to promote. His decision to respond to public records requests goes to the heart of the PERA mission to remove a cloak of secrecy from police misconduct.
PERA has called an emergency meeting for Monday, November 16th, to “[discuss] and vote relative to potential disciplinary action(s) to be taken against Executive Director Jose Batista, including, but not limited to possible suspension or termination of position.”
The Center for Justice urges the PERA Board, the Mayor’s Office, and the Providence Police Department to support Director Batista’s actions. The City should be more concerned about protecting the public by eliminating police misconduct than withholding evidence from the public.
Director Batista’s press conference and other coverage is on Uprise RI: https://upriseri.com/2020-11-10-pera-hanley/
Statement from PrYSM (Providence Youth Student Movement): https://upriseri.com/2020-11-20-prysm/