Court ruling gives city another chance at firing Laprade

Court ruling gives city another chance at firing Laprade

PAWTUCKET - A Rhode Island Supreme Court ruling last Wednesday gives city officials another shot at firing Nichalas Laprade, the police officer previously convicted of indecent exposure.

The 3-2 decision that Pawtucket can hold a new hearing on Laprade's case represented a significant win for a city that's already spent more than $323,000 in salary and benefits for Laprade since he was suspended in 2010.

The Valley Breeze reported in November of 2010 that Laprade had been arrested for allegedly exposing himself to two women and masturbating while off duty and driving on the highway.

The Breeze revealed that Laprade was one of two officers caught on video napping in their cruiser in August of 2010. He and a second unnamed officer were administered an undisclosed disciplinary action after sleeping during the early Saturday morning shift. The police bill of rights allows for a two-day suspension for such a "minor" infraction.

"We still have to make our case before a hearing panel, but we continue to feel that our case is a solid and legally sound one," said Director of Administration Antonio Pires in a statement. "The city's goal, and its responsibility, throughout these proceedings has simply been to give the citizens of Pawtucket their day in court, so to speak. We are appreciative that we will now, in light of (this) ruling, be granted the full opportunity to do so."

Pires said Monday that the city's "immediate goal" is to present its case and evidence to the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights hearing board through labor attorney Vincent Ragosta.

"The city is grateful that the Supreme Court has provided us with an opportunity to present the case to the LEOBOR panel on behalf of the city's residents," he said. "Beyond that, the city will not speculate on any possible results of that hearing."

Laprade hadn't even reached three years on the job at the time of his arrest in 2010. He was immediately suspended with pay at his $54,000-a-year salary.

After his February 2011 conviction, city officials tried to fire him. The Breeze reported that Laprade would keep his job after an internal affairs officer missed a filing deadline by one day. City officials were denied a request for an extension and the disciplinary panel charged with deciding his case voted 2-1 that he was not guilty based on the lack of evidence presented.

The city's appeal of the decision was denied by Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter in October of 2012. The case then went to Supreme Court. Taft-Carter's decision was quashed and the disciplinary committee's decision was vacated.