Police spend $24K on ‘riot gear’ amid unrest

Police spend $24K on ‘riot gear’ amid unrest

WOONSOCKET – The Woonsocket Police Department earlier this month purchased $24,405 worth of helmets, shields and other protective equipment for officers, citing the growing unrest in some parts of the country.

Deputy Chief Michael Lemoine said the purchase was made following the looting and violence that happened in Providence on June 2. The Woonsocket Police Department, he said, sent three officers to assist with the Providence police response and did not have proper safety equipment for them.

At the time, rumors abounded that similar unrest occur in to Woonsocket. Those rumors proved false, but Lemoine said the department felt it needed to have equipment on hand.

“In my (nearly) 30 years as a Woonsocket police officer, I’ve never had to don such equipment,” Lemoine told The Breeze on June 12. “And I was happy to see that nothing came of the social media chatter and hype of last week. However, it did show an area where we lacked protective/defensive equipment for the officers.”

The decision drew some criticism on social media as protesters in various parts of the country called for a decrease in funding to police.

Lemoine said the term “riot gear,” used in a City Council ordinance related to the purchase, has a negative connotation, and described the purchase as “protective equipment” for officers.

The funds were originally supposed to come out of the city’s contingency fund, but Lemoine said the department withdrew that request last week after realizing they had enough funds to purchase the equipment out of their existing budget for public safety supplies.