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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A Providence police officer who was seen on video striking a political opponent at a State House rally last year has escaped termination following a closed-door hearing in front of a panel of his peers.
The three-member panel made up of members of Rhode Island law enforcement voted unanimously to overturn the Providence Police Department’s efforts to fire Jeann Lugo, and instead handed down a 10-day unpaid suspension.
The decision, which came down Tuesday afternoon, was confirmed by Lugo’s attorney in the administrative case, Carly Beauvais Iafrate.
The hearing – part of the state’s Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights – took place over three days earlier this month. Lugo was found not guilty of five of the seven departmental charges the city brought against him.
The panel determined Lugo was guilty of two violations of essentially failing to notify his commanding officers about the incident on June 24, 2022. He was found not guilty of the other departmental charges including that he failed to act courteously, simple assault, disorderly conduct and others.
Former Police Chief Hugh Clements had written in charging documents last year that he had lost confidence in Lugo’s “ability to exercise self-control” and conduct himself in a professional manner. He called Lugo’s conduct “disturbing, egregious and assaultive” and said it tarnished the reputation of the police department.
Iafrate said the LEOBOR hearing provided an opportunity for all the facts to be gathered and presented to the panel.
“I’m glad the bill of rights process worked exactly as it should have,” Iafrate said. “His mission from the beginning was just to get back to work. He loved his job as a Providence police officer.”
“The last year has been very difficult for him,” she added. “He is looking forward to getting back to it.”
Lugo was accused of hitting a political rival, Rhode Island Political Cooperative co-founder Jennifer Rourke, during an abortion rally outside the state house in June. He was off-duty at the time and the incident was captured on video.
Lugo was a Republican candidate for state senate at the time of the incident.
At Lugo’s trial in November, a district court judge found while Lugo did strike Rourke, it did not rise to the level of criminality. The panel’s decision leaned heavily into the district court’s decision in their finding.
Patricia Socarras, a spokesperson for Mayor Brett Smiley said in an email that the administration asked for termination because it is our expectation that Providence Police conduct themselves at the highest professional standards.”
“Officer Lugo’s actions directly contradict our values and the standards we expect our officers to adhere while on and off duty,” she wrote.
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By law, the three-member panel includes a pick by the accused officer, one by the department binging the charges, and a neutral party. In this case, the city chose Providence Police Commander Kevin Lanni, Lugo picked former police union officer Robert Boehm, and the neutral panelist was Cranston Police Major Todd Patalano.
The hearing was closed to the public, and a 12 News reporter was kicked out of the room during the proceedings.
A spokesperson for the mayor did not immediately provide a comment.
Iafrate said Lugo has been on paid suspension since the incident. He has not yet served the unpaid suspension.
This is a developing story. Check back for further details.
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