Council questions claims on Twin River police details

Council questions claims on Twin River police details

LINCOLN – During an energetic discussion about the future of police details at Twin River Casino that took place at Lincoln Town Hall on Tuesday night, council members cast doubt on the claims of local police union members that the rest of town is left short on protection because officers are being called to the casino.

A letter sent by Lincoln’s police union to members of the Town Council and reported in last week’s Breeze alleged that police resources in Lincoln are burdened if there’s not a dedicated officer on casino duty.

“Twin River is responsible for a large share of the town’s police activity, creating a significant challenge for police officers and leaving them unavailable for incidents throughout town,” said IBPO Local 435 president Kyle Wingate on behalf of the union.

Further, Wingate said police department radio equipment is inoperable within the casino, causing officers to use their personal cell phones to communicate.

In response to the letter, Town Council President Keith Macksoud invited Wingate and representatives from Twin River to Tuesday's special council meeting.

Macksoud said he was disappointed in the letter, and the fact that the matter was “brought to local newspapers” rather than “to the council’s immediate attention.” The council president said he saw more accusations than evidence.

Sharing data on the number of police responses to Twin River, Macksoud said the monthly high was between 80 and 90 calls. Broken down, he said that’s roughly three calls per day, at the peak.

“I’m trying to figure out how that leaves the rest of the town lacking police protection,” he said, adding that the council would have a lot to look at before considering passing a resolution that would require the casino to have an officer on-site.

“Eighty-eight calls in a month. You don’t think that’s excessive?” Wingate pushed back.

“For a facility of that size, I do not,” Macksoud said. Wingate countered that no other town or city council would allow for three police calls to be made to the same business every day.

The union penned a second letter to the council, which Wingate said was signed by “every single member of the department from the highest-ranking to the lowest-ranking member.”

Twin River has paid Lincoln officers to serve on details historically, but cut back on those detail shifts when the pandemic forced the gambling destination to adjust its hours and run at a fraction of its normal capacity.

With restrictions beginning to lift, Wingate said it’s important for an officer to be stationed at the site again.

“This has nothing to do with money, it’s about the health and safety of our officers and our community,” he said, adding that they’d support another agency filling detail shifts there if it meant Lincoln’s resources would spread more equally.

The minimum number of officers on a shift in Lincoln is three. Wingate said they operate at minimum manpower a fair amount of the time, or at least on a weekly basis.

Councilor Bruce Ogni, a former police officer who said his brother works in a top position in the casino’s security office, said he feels there should be a detail officer at Twin River at certain times, but not around the clock.

“I just don’t think the need is there for coverage from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. on a Monday. I don’t think our officers are flat-out during that time,” he said. “I do think we need an officer there most of the other hours.”

Ogni, as well as other council members, said the radio issue within the casino is of paramount concern, and asked that the issue be solved as soon as possible.

“The thought of an officer being there and not having communications boggles my mind,” he said.

Casino representatives, addressing the council, said the radio issue is being fixed as part of their planned expansion, but that they’d be willing to look into expediting the process. The casino will install a new radio repeater, meaning officers responding to emergencies there will no longer need to retrieve a “casino radio” to communicate.

Of the detail shifts the casino posted in 2019, roughly 31 percent were not filled, according to casino personnel. The need for detail officers there shifts depending on a number of circumstances, they said.

Kim Ward, the regional executive director for public and community affairs at Twin River, said between the opening of Encore in Massachusetts and the impacts of the pandemic, the data hasn’t supported keeping details on 24/7.

Attorney Mark Russo said in Tiverton, the police chief sits quarterly with casino leaders to assess public safety.

“It’s a dynamic process that grows and retracts,” he said, adding that they’d be happy to report to the council periodically as they do in Tiverton.

Ogni said he’d much rather the union and casino work it out on their own, without involving the council.

Russo agreed, saying the matter “should be a collaboration between Twin River and the Police Department.”

“You don’t want us making these decisions, and you certainly don’t want the people on Smith Hill to be making these decisions,” he said.

Sen. Thomas Paolino, who represents Lincoln, introduced legislation that would require police detail at all state casinos.

“Hopefully you can negotiate something in good faith ... so you don’t have to deal with this again,” said Russo.

Following the more than three-hour council meeting Tuesday, Twin River Vice President and General Manager Craig Sculos issued a statement noting that the casino appreciates the exchange of ideas that took place and “will take under advisement the union’s request for additional details to be assigned at Twin River Casino Hotel.”

“It bears underscoring that the Twin River security and surveillance teams are comprised of 116 active and retired law enforcement personnel,” he continued. “We also have on site the daily presence of the Rhode Island State Police Gaming Enforcement Unit and we have a highly comprehensive, state-of-the art surveillance system in place throughout the casino and the exterior perimeter.”

Sculos reiterated that the casino is running at about 40-50 percent capacity and is offering less than half of its slot machines. He said the event center and hotel have yet to reopen, and that food and beverage offerings remain limited.

“Twin River values the relationship with the town, the Police Department and the community. Twin River always has, and always will, work cooperatively with Town Hall and the Lincoln Police Department,” he said.

Correction: The percentage of unfilled shifts in 2019 was 31 percent, not 8 percent as previously reported. The 8 percent figure is for 2021 shifts.

Comments

When we see a police officer at a roadside construction site, directing traffic, is that a requirement? Isn't the construction company paying for that detail? If so, why wouldn't Twin Rivers be seen the same way? Why wouldn't they be required to have and pay for their own police detail? The same thing with large events like concerts? Aren't they required to have police and fire marshalls on site, and pay for those themselves?

I believe it is imperative that the Casino reinstate the Lincoln Police officers details. As per the amount of calls, we all know most of the calls come in Thursday night through Sunday morning so if you divide 90 calls by 4 it can be @ 22 calls per day on the weekend. Also, it is irrelevant how many current police officers from other municipalities work there. The only two entities with arrest powers at Twin River Casino in Lincoln are the Lincoln Police and the Rhode Island State Police. The Rhode Island State Police are prohibited from working a detail there, consequently, Lincoln Police are the only individuals who can work a detail with arrest powers..Officer Wingate is 100% correct and on point.

In a land not so far away (Foxboro), there are police officers and firefighters who work details from other towns on the regular. They are able to do their job without incident. Perhaps RI or the town should look into similar legislation or ordinances to enable officers from neighboring communities to work details when the Lincoln police are unable to the shifts don't go uncovered. This is already done on roadside details, so it can't be too hard to figure out.

Twin River should reinstate the Police Detail it will only make their employees, customers, and our community feel safer! Also, the Lincoln Police have the knowledge, training, and de-escalation skills needed to prevent bad situations or conflicts from escalating. It should be the top priority of Twin River to make their employees and guest feel as safe as possible and they shouldn’t be draining the resources of the town in order to do so!

I do give credit to Officer Wingate. It’s his job to represent the best interests of Lincoln’s Officers while still advocating for the safety and security of our community. That is a Union President’s job. I don’t think anyone will question the intent of Mr. Wingate, the Union, and its Officers but I believe many will question how or why did it get to that forum. Or, why a Captain who is a veteran, in a leadership role let it get to this point and gather other people in town for community comment. All were connected to either Lincoln’s police force past an present, Central Falls police force past and present, and RIC’s security division. Our town is in transition, uncharted territory and townspeople are anxious. All this did was show everyone that Lincoln is divided and the political poison remains. Majority of townspeople don’t want what happened at this meeting and all the more they will vote for change. People have every right to speak at community comment. But, through my education, work experience, vast skill with people and relationships, and years being on the school committee this was much more about personal feelings and distaste of how things are managed in the Police Department. All it takes is one bad apple and this can be infectious especially on the younger ones.

Twin River is a business and they have to make decisions based on what is good for them short and long term. I’m sure they have many priorities; two of them are keeping their business financially sound and keeping their employees and patrons safe. It has been brought to my attention that the Police Union increased their rate of pay for details. If this is true, #1 why would Twin River want to pay a contracted price which we all know is much higher than what they pay their security personnel, #2 details aren’t being filled to their satisfaction. Since we’re talking about safety and security, Officers need to show up for the work detail. We need Twin River more than they need us. They want to work with us so whoever is causing trouble on the inside must be really bored and should stop the petty nonsense. Is this more about a stepping stone for a bigger role in the Police Department? A bigger role in Lincoln politics?

Let’s collaborate and hold each other accountable. Does that ever happen anymore in today’s twisted world? Look at the big picture before you start gathering people for public comment to talk about things that could be handled internally.

My apologies, I meant to say 22 calls per weekend not days.

I guess every comment by someone above is going to be attacking Captain Gould until after the election is over.

Mr Picozzi,

How many police officers does Lincoln have? How many are on duty at a given time? How many are actually eligible/able to work the details? How many work in administrative roles? How many are working other details that are already filled by officers of neighboring communities because there are not enough Lincoln officers available? Perhaps the problem isn’t with the fact that shifts aren’t being filled, but that we don’t employ enough to do it? Maybe the detail rate needs to be raised to make it worth an off duty officer’s time away from their family?

As for the sentiment that we aren’t in jeopardy while our officers are at twin river and not on the road? That is absolutely insane. How many officers does it take to go back to the station when someone is taken into custody? There is t a dedicated officer in the station to watch the prisoner. So now we’ve gone from three down to two. Maybe one. Maybe none. Somewhere that makes that much money should not be using the services that we all have to share. They produce ANY increase in volume for ANY emergency service in this town? It is that entity which should supplement the numbers we have to protect the rest of us. Drive from twin river to Manville, how long does that take? Even with lights and sirens? Bet you it’s longer than you’d want to wait.

I meant to include Community Intelligence Officer (acting in an Official Capacity but not "gathering" for official business).

Some people live in glass houses and some hide in brick buildings. They walk around in their comfort zones with their chest pumped and their dirty nostrils in the air. They are quite convincing to those who are just like them. For those who are not, they’re wolves in sheeps clothing. If you don’t fit the criteria they set for you or if you made some mistakes on your journey, you’re expelled “darrrling.”

It never hurts to be proactive. Example: becoming familiarized with grazing techniques so when it comes time to hit the pasture feelings of being expelled don’t settle in.

I agree we need more Officers. I don’t agree with the forum that was utilized as it was distasteful and disrespectful not only to the Town Council but to Chief Sullivan as well. Step back and put yourself in their shoes. And, to have a veteran involved who has been running for TA for years, and with a police union contract coming up in the near was very feeble to say the least. So, the perception is let me back you on this and you’re Union will support me. There’s a way to go about these types of things and taking the easy way out just shows you the true character of a person.

Lincoln population 21k. number of Officers estimated 25
North Providence population 33k. number of Officers estimated 37
Smithfield population 22k: number of Officers unknown
Central Falls population 19k: number of Officers unknown
Woonsocket population 42k. number of Officers estimated 54
Pawtucket population 72k. number of Officers estimated 92

Lincoln: 25 Officers, 3 shifts per day, 5 districts need adequate coverage. Three Officers on shift. It’s not an adequate number as you don’t have to be a genius to see it’s short. We knew that anyway. Vacations, call outs, possible injuries, etc. Just some numbers/ideas here for adequate coverage for Limerock (2), Fairlawn (1), Saylesville (1), Lonsdale (1), Albion (1), and Manville (1). And one rover Officer maybe? This is called an idea and thinking outside the box! Does the prisoner have to be an eyeball watch? How about rounds? Also, dispatch can’t watch prisoner(s) by camera? This isn't NYC do we really get an influx of prisoners? Contract is coming up so it should be one hand washes the other with whoever the new TA will be. Is there a list with Officer’s names on there who would be interested in working the Twin River detail and I’m not talking about just for Senior Officers?

Data needs to be presented to either the Town Administrator or the Town Council. Representatives of the Police Union should be able to build relationships with TC members with the expectation that you’re not getting anything because we have a positive rapport. You get it considered if it makes sense and there is an urgent need for our Community and of course Officer safety. If it covers those elements, it will be considered. This is the mentality that everyone should have who has the authority to facilitate this change. It’s called effective collaboration. All this other nonsense is bad politics.

Note C4-8: The Town Council during the last quarter of the budget year may revise allotments between departments, offices and agencies other than the allotments of the School Department and the Board of Water Commissioners.

I think it is good to have the community comment on these types of issues. I understand you have an education Mr. Picozzi but we live in a town with a lot of highly educated individuals that aren’t any less qualified to be involved in this discussion. As far as the Police Department raising the price of their details you can’t really put a price on a life. Police Officers are willing to risk their own lives to protect ours! If they are working at a construction site there is always risk they could get hit by a car or be blown up. In addition to this, they could get shot when on regular duty. Also, I am sure there are also a lot of other risks they are exposed to that I am not aware of. Security Guards don’t have the authority to arrest people and if Twin River didn’t need the police they wouldn’t be calling them approximately 22 times in a weekend. I disagree that the town is divided. I see people in this community volunteering and giving their time to make this town a better place! I would also like to thank everyone who volunteers and for all the hard work they have put in to making us a better community!

Mr. Picozzi,
Do you get paid for being on the school committee? Will you collect a pension based on years served on the school committee? If so, why do you believe police officers should not receive an increase in pay for providing services in which they place their life on the line every day? Twin River will write the detail expenses off on their taxes ultimately not actually paying for the detail. I am confused by your attack on the town police officers.

But doesn't Twin River pay taxes to the town? Isn't fire and police protection a part of what their tax money is intended to pay for?

Twin River does pay taxes but aren’t Police Details requested for other large events when alcohol is served, cash is collected, and where live bands are playing and/or when safety and security concerns are evident. In my opinion, Twin River should not make the decision to reinstate or not reinstate the detail based on what is best for them financially but based on what is best to keep their employees, guests and our community as safe as possible.

Mr. Picozzi, I do find it ironic that you are accusing people of being politically motivated when you yourself have been inquiring about endorsements for your own campaign run. The word on the street is that you approached the police union to see if they would be endorsing a candidate? I even heard you are seeking endorsements from other members of the school committee. Do you think maybe that is relevant to share since you seem so concerned with what other people’s intentions are?

Maybe it explains why you have been so busy attacking a respected member of the police department? A police captain who is a veteran as you point out. I am not sure the relevance, but it is starting to seem like you have an issue with people who serve our country.

You accuse a member of the police department of gathering residents for community comment? On what basis do you make that claim? With your vast education I am sure you are familiar with the term slander? You realize of course that the false claims you make can be easily fact checked right?
As a “respected member” of the school committee you might want to get your facts straight. Whether you realize it or not, your actions and statements also reflect on them.

You talk about uniting and not dividing. Why not try working with members of the police department as part of your campaign platform instead of trying to smear potential candidates? Just a though.