NORTH PROVIDENCE – Since taking over as president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 13 in 2018, Lt. Tom Jones has been laser-focused on improving the relationship between the community and North Providence Police Department.
Now the officer in charge of the Community Affairs Division for the past year or so, Jones is kicking that focus into hyperdrive, organizing numerous events to both give back and help the community as a whole.
After a successful No Shave November to raise money for Cops for Kids with Cancer, with money also hopefully going to Hasbro Children’s Hospital, police are now participating in Double Down December, keeping their beards going to raise even more money.
Attendance at a recent women’s self-defense program sponsored by police shocked Jones, with more than 40 people signing up, including some members of town departments.
Police are also now wrapping up their toy drive, and were set to deliver gift cards and toys to St. Mary’s Home for Children on Tuesday, Dec. 14, after partnering with Target and going on a shopping spree with managers at the store.
Officers contributed to donations for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, delivering full Thanksgiving dinners to some 20 families, including one family that had been homeless and living near the library. They were able to put the family up at the Homewood Suites by Hilton in Smithfield for a week, and representatives from R.I. Rent Assistance were subsequently able to get them into an apartment. Jones said police partnered with Shiloh Gospel Church to feed Thanksgiving dinners to 16 families there as part of the effort.
Jones said he’s in a great position now as both the head of the union and head of community affairs to organize efforts, telling The North Providence Breeze he recently sent out an email to membership and another $400 came in.
“With the dual roles, I’m definitely using it to my advantage to get as much as we can done,” he said.
Rank-and-file police are constantly donating, he said, as are the chief and deputy chief. He said there’s a really great partnership right now between the FOP, police and community.
Jones said he originally had a goal of building a better reputation for the Police Department, but he didn’t envision three years ago that he’d have the chance to maximize those efforts through a position in community affairs.
“We’re constantly doing something,” he said.
Participation in events has been building, he said, with the 40 people signing up for the self-defense class, the most obvious sign yet that the community is totally on-board with what police are looking to do. Many of those women immediately began asking what else the department might be offering after learning basic tools of self-defense and how to be situationally aware, he said, and he’s now planning a series of events to offer to the community, including programs on firearms safety, and mental health and domestic violence.
As an add-on to the gun safety course, teaching people how to lawfully go about getting a concealed carry permit and safely owning a gun, he said he envisions also potentially running some kind of gun buyback or giveback event to get some old weapons off the street.
By the time the mental health and domestic violence sessions are concluding, Jones said he and others are planning to run a citizens’ police academy, and by the time that comes about, engagement will be so high that they envision they’ll have to turn people away.