In a stunning act of shortsighted greed and stupidity, the Providence police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, has voted to support the mayoral candidacy of Buddy Cianci who once spent 4.5 years in federal prison for running a criminal enterprise from Providence City Hall. How does the union think this looks to the world? Any wonder that the police are held in such low esteem.
In 2003 The New York Times covered what the newly appointed chief of police, Dean Esserman, was finding in Cianci’s wake — the outgoing chief, Urbano Prignano, had just testified under immunity at Cianci’s corruption trial — and they found that the then head of the police union was thrilled to see an end to the Cianci regime.
For decades, the police department in Providence, New England’s second-largest city, was under the tight control of Vincent Cianci Jr., the mayor who is serving more than five years in federal prison for overseeing the sale of jobs, contracts and other favors in this city of more than 170,000 people. Mr. Cianci engineered most of the police department’s major decisions and rewarded loyalty with promotions and other favors.
”We’ve been asking for years: ‘City Hall, keep your hands off,’ ” said Officer Michael Marcoccio, leader of the police union.
Is it short institutional memory at work here? Someone should give Mr. Marcoccio a call. But what about the phrase “twice-convicted felon” don’t the younger police officers understand? Has the promise of lucrative contracts blinded them to the drawbacks of navigating such a corrupt system? Promotions based on merit? How quaint.
Chief Esserman has also reopened an investigation into how officers were promoted. Chief Urbano Prignano Jr., who was forced out in 2001, revealed at Mr. Cianci’s corruption trial last summer that he doled out cheat sheets before the tests. Many officers were enraged.
The people of Providence will now justifiably regard every cop with scorn and contempt. And get ready to buy lots of tickets to lots of fundraisers, boys and girls — there’s no free lunch at the Cianci Diner.
(Disclosure: This writer was once a member of the Providence Police Department, as well as the F.O.P., for five years under the first Cianci administration.)