Good afternoon. Let me address your concerns one at a time:
1.AIRGAS- Rhode Island General Law (RIGL) 28-10-13.1 states that "police services at a labor dispute are a PUBLIC FUNCTION" and prohibits any police officer, on-duty or off-duty, to be hired or paid by any party in a labor dispute. Initially, we did not have officers short-posted at this location and we were constantly being called to 120 Tellmore St. (AIRGAS location off of RTE.#2) where strikers were preventing non-strikers from either entering or leaving the business location and also damaging company equipment. The law also states that strikers may peacefully assemble and demonstrate but the company has a legal right to keep their business open and operational, free from undue interference, intimidation, damage, or destruction.
The company has made a decision due to the fact their workers are intimidated that they have now moved their operations to their main facility at 522 Jefferson Blvd. On Monday, we arrested one of the strikers and he has been charged with Disorderly Conduct.
WE have constantly evaluated this situation and it is our belief that we must be at this location while business is in operation (0600-1800) or there will be problems that we will have to be called to. It is part of our responsibilities to keep the peace during labor disputes. We have plenty of information that backs up our position at this time. We will continue to monitor and evaluate this situation on a daily basis.
2. Panhandling- Right now, based on federal & state court decisions, ordinances calling for enforcement and prohibition have been declared unconstitutional and I was advised by our city solicitor to cease enforcement based on our ordinances. WE will make arrests when appropriate (yesterday, we arrested one panhandler who was engaged in a dispute with his girlfriend and it was discovered that he had two Superior Ct. warrants). If any of them acts in a manner that can be construed as disorderly or violates a criminal statute we will arrest but for now we cannot arrest simply because they are involved in solicitation until we can find statutory language that will survive a court challenge. Cranston is presently engaged in their 2nd attempt at a Panhandling Ordinance but it is also under challenge.
It is my understanding that CM Merolla is scheduled to meet with the mayor, myself, and the city solicitor to meet on Panhandling and we will see what comes out of that meeting.
My response to the the police Chief:
Thank you for your response.
A few more thoughts...U.S. District Court Judge John McConnell Jr. declared the Cranston ordinance was unconstitutional and Cranston is fighting back. I believe Warwick should take the proactive approach and do what the City of Cranston is doing--and not sit back with a wait-and-see approach-- let the fight go all the way to the Supreme Court if need be and I'll testify with others every step of the way! We have city ordinances on our books and Warwick has the right to enforce it's ordinances as a matter of public safety. I have many videos to prove that the panhandlers pose a public safety threat. In addition, they leave litter behind, harass drivers, some are frauds and some have criminal records (like the one that was arrested yesterday). Why should any citizen feel uncomfortable and unsafe sitting at a traffic light anywhere in our city?? When someone is killed, is that when it will be stopped?
Chief you could also be an advocate, as it's your First Amendment right to be, and do what the Manchester NH Chief of police did when he announced to "stop giving money to panhandlers" > https://manchesterinklink.com/public-service-announcement-chief-willard-stop-giving-money-panhandlers/
I ask , will you do the same???"
Note: I was the one who called the WPD yesterday to report the panhandler I witnessed fighting in the middle of the road with a woman and her toddler. I was more concerned with the safety of the toddler, that's why I called the WPD. That panhandler is the one the Chief is referring to that ended up being arrested.