Amanda Milkovits; Journal Staff Writer December 23, 2000, Saturday, All Editions Copyright 2000 The Providence Journal Company The Providence Journal-Bulletin December 23, 2000, Saturday, All Editions
(PROVIDENCE, R.I.) -- The Police Department's Internal Affairs Division finished gathering witness statements yesterday about allegations that several police officers threatened parking lot attendants after one of them towed an officer's car.
Those reports are being reviewed by the attorney general's office and the state police, said John J. Partington, Providence commissioner of public safety.
"I said (the investigation) was going to be swift," said Partington, who had asked for the attorney general's involvement when the allegations became public on Wednesday. "I want to get to the bottom of this. This is a very, very serious matter."
But there's more work ahead to determine what happened at the Intown Parking lots on Snow and Westminster Streets late Saturday night and early Sunday morning.
The investigation is focusing on up to five officers two of whom have already been placed on desk duty, said Providence police Maj. Martin F. Hames, who heads the Internal Affairs Division.
Patrolmen Vincent Pazzetta, who owns the car that was towed, and Peter E. Flynn, who's been the subject of several misconduct complaints, were taken off patrols and put on desk duty, sources said. The administrative duty, a new process under the new police contract, means the officers may not work any details, make any decisions, and are restricted to clerical work.
However, they are still permitted to carry their weapons. Both Pazzetta and Flynn were in uniform and performing clerical work on the station's first floor yesterday.
The trouble started just before midnight Saturday, when an off-duty officer allegedly refused to pay $6 to park in an Intown Parking lot on Snow Street. The parking attendant had his car towed. The off-duty officer returned about a half-hour later with another officer, who allegedly threatened to beat up the attendant who towed the car and two other attendants at the lot.
An attendant at another lot thought they were being robbed, so he grabbed a baseball bat and ran over to them. He allegedly dropped the bat when he saw the police, but one of the officers allegedly pulled a gun on him, forced him face-down on a counter, and smashed the counter with the bat. Two more officers pulled up in a cruiser, screaming at the attendant who towed the car.
Intown Parking filed a complaint with the Internal Affairs Division on Monday. When the allegations became public on Wednesday, Partington asked the attorney general's office to get involved. Asst. Atty. Gen. Russell Sollitto, and Lt. Stephen Lynch and Detective John Flaherty, of the state police Major Crimes Unit, have joined Providence police in the investigation.
Meanwhile, the department's Internal Affairs Division is looking into whether the officers broke department policies forbidding officers to use their position for perks, Partington said.
The off-duty officer who refused to pay $ 6 to park allegedly told the attendant, "I'm not paying you. I'm a cop."
The three other officers allegedly threatened the attendants: "Didn't he tell you he's a (expletive) cop?'
But the department's written policies are clear: The badge isn't meant to be used for perks.
No personnel are allowed to use their position, badge, or identification card for any personal gain. The policy also states that police personnel cannot seek any gifts, gratuities, meals, rewards, money or any compensation for services incurred in the line of duty.
The recent allegations have again embarrassed the Police Department. But Partington said the police officers are staying focused on doing their work. "If you call 911 right now, you'll get all the help you need. They're doing their job out there," Partington said.