Editor’s note: Last week a flap erupted when a letter written by Jed Pineau, president of Warwick Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 and sent to “our community and our officers” was posted on Facebook. In the letter, Pineau questions the governor’s executive order that all people wear masks in public under the threat of civil penalties. He wrote, “ Our officers work every single day to bridge the gap with our community and earn their trust. We will not stand idly by and allow Governor Raimondo’s overreaching order to tear that bridge down, and we will certainly not be a part of it by enforcing this Order against our community.” Col. Rick Rathbun issued the following response: Since the middle of March, our department's focus has been education when handling complaints and calls for service for any violation of the various city and state executive orders versus taking an immediate hardline enforcement approach. Our position is that we have to balance the approach we use between all our community engagement functions, and when we must take any enforcement actions.
The Warwick Police Department's priority has been to exercise discretion and common sense to educate the public in following the rules/regulations in prior to taking any enforcement actions.
Through responses on past individual calls for service, discussions after inquiries from area businesses, and extensively on our social media platforms, we have been successful in getting the messaging out about what precautions and restrictions our community should be taking during this unprecedented crisis.
While I am communicating with President Pineau on his concerns, the FOP is the bargaining agent for our officers and not a component of the management of the agency; as such, they do not set department policy.
At the end of the day, we as individuals all have our independent views, and this pandemic has left all us searching for control and stability in a volatile world where change has been a constant...Regardless of their personal opinions, our police officers will enforce the laws just as they always have to protect and serve the community.
Col. Rick Rathbun