Police want Google to fund joint firing range in Johnston

Police want Google to fund joint firing range in Johnston

NORTH PROVIDENCE - Officials in the North Providence Police Department are asking the U.S. Department's permission to use $62,000 to pay for a joint police firing range in neighboring Johnston.

The range would be located on the lower level of the Johnston Police Department on Atwood Avenue, according to Mayor Charles Lombardi. Johnston already has a firing range at the location for its officers to use for training, said Lombardi, but it is "antiquated" and not entirely up to "today's standards."

"We have the opportunity to do that with not too many dollars," Lombardi told The Breeze. "Both departments seem to be excited about it."

If and when it's completed, the firing range will offer an opportunity for North Providence and Johnston officials to welcome officers from surrounding communities to train there, according to Lombardi.

North Providence officials continue to "look for ways to share" resources with other communities, said the mayor, and the $60 million won by the Police Department as part of a settlement last year is now helping them to do so.

Is a firing range in Johnston a good way to spend the Google money? Tell us at www.valleybreeze.com .

Police Chief Paul Martellini said Monday that a joint firing range will be a "win-win" for North Providence and Johnston, allowing officers in the neighboring communities to train together and get to know each other better.

"They have the facility and we have some of the finances so we can help them," said Martellini.

A memorandum of understanding between the two departments will need to be drafted and approved by the North Providence Town Council, said Martellini.

No longer will North Providence officers have to travel to an outdoor firing range in Woonsocket, said Martellini, and will be able to practice their "low-light" firing with greater frequency. Officers will now be indoors at a nearby location during the colder months, allowing them greater access to the firing range's four bays and shooting alleys. Each department will be required to have a range instructor on duty when they are firing, he said.

A new and improved police firing range would be the fourth item paid for in North Providence through the 2012 settlement with Google over illegal online advertising practices.

Justice officials this year have approved $20.6 million to fix the town's ailing police pension fund, $1.26 million purchase to buy a fleet of 32 new police vehicles, and $300,000 for a new police substation and two new officers at Notte Park, bringing the total spent to more than $22 million.

Martellini is reviewing a number of possibilities for the remaining Google money, including buying patrol rifles to replace the shotguns currently used in police cruisers and upgrading the department's computer systems and other equipment. Given the hazards facing communities and their police officers these days, the rifles would offer "more firepower" and add a level of safety for officers and the public, said Martellini.

The latest application from North Providence officials comes amid continued controversy over how the $60 million Google windfall should be spent.

Town Council President Kristen Catanzaro is maintaining her stance that Police Department leaders should be coming to the council to approve any and all expenditures, as she says is required by guidelines spelled out by the Department of Justice.

Martellini said back in July that his interpretation of the Department of Justice guidelines is that they apply to communities with an appointed town manager style of government. While he's in favor of "transparency" on how the funds are spent, he said, he doesn't believe any authority rests with the council.

"I answer to the mayor," he said then. "That's my job and my obligation is fulfilled if I do that."

Catanzaro, who said back in the summer that she expected to eventually draft an ordinance giving the council authority to approve the spending, told The Breeze this week that she's still "working on it" and "it hasn't gone away."

"I still stand by my statement that the procedure is that the council has to approve the expenditures," she said. "I still feel that according to Department of Justice guidelines, that is how the procedure should be. They're disregarding the guidelines."

According to Catanzaro, the Department of Justice "doesn't print guidelines for just any reason."

"They (Martellini and Lombadi) can continue to do what they're doing if they feel they're right," she said. "I'm going to get my ducks in order on what I'm looking into doing, and then it will have to be presented."

She added, "I'm firm that we're not following the guidelines. I stick by that."

Comments

This is ridiculous, the cop dept and the Mayor need a lesson in how to save money not spend it for every nicety that they think they should have. They want to be in the Johnston Swat Team, you know the guys that have all of the armored Humvee squad and battle armor.
The Mayor just doesn't get it. In these times of high unemployment, NP is at 10% with 25% underemployed he should be showing restraint and cutting spending, whether its Google and or taxpayers money, lead by example, which he is NOT. Martellini is as much of the problem as he has no financial experience or restraint and he surly is not building a fine example for people in NP watching the money go for more and more to the police that we the taxpayers are still paying through the roof in benefits. Cops & Mayor are NOT setting a good example for a cash strapped town.

What's ridiculous is your comment that the police are not setting a good example for our cash strapped town. Evidently you either don't know or you don't care that the North Providence Police was the first union in the town and one of the first in the state to start paying a co-pay for medical. At the onset of the town's financial problems, we gave an additional concession totaling $250,000. We did not ask for anything in return. About 3 years ago we entered into an agreement with the Town that , not only resolved over 20 grievances without taking them to court or arbitration, but also agreed to reduce the size of the department. That reduction saves the town $500,000 EVERY year . So please show me where we are not setting the example. Because we would like to use a small portion of the google money (that WE gained for the town through police work by the way) you have issue with it. The fact that we would like a range to help stay proficient in firearms training should be looked at as a positive. I know that you'd like to see that google money spent in other areas like paying down debt and other town expenses but the fact remains the federal government restricts how the money can be used. I'm sorry you feel that the police dept doesn't care about the finances of the town. And your not happy with how the department would like to use the money it gained through police work. But just keep this in mind: had WE not received that money the town would be spending close to an additional $900,000 towards pensions. So again, another savings at the hands of a police dept that, as you described, isn't setting the example. You are right. We are not setting an example. We are leading the charge. Please do the math with these figures and I challenge you to find another police department that has saved it's town that kind of money. I would also think that you'd like to have the best trained and equipped police available especially if those expenses don't cost you a penny.