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R.I. police defend graduating recruits who failed firearms qualification

Over criticism from a police union, Providence PD says the three recruits are qualified with “the necessary skills”

Providence police recruits

Providence Police recruits attend a city council meeting in Providence, Rhode Island.

Providence City Council

By Mark Reynolds
The Providence Journal

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The city’s police chief, Col. Hugh Clements Jr., is standing behind the firearms proficiency of three police recruits despite sharp criticism from a police union leader.

Mike Imondi, the president of the police officers’ union, says the three recruits shouldn’t graduate with their class this weekend because they failed to qualify within a timeframe set forth in the department’s policy.

In a written statement, Clements says every member of the 70th Police Academy, including the three recruits in question, has received top-level training, has qualified and has “the necessary skills” to serve the city.

Clements acknowledges the three recruits in question received “additional firearm training.”

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That additional training, says Imondi, took place after the 80-hour firearms training course was over, which is unprecedented.

The course itself, he said, includes additional remedial training and two additional qualification attempts for any recruit who fails to pass during their first attempt.

Each of the three recruits made three attempts during the course and each failed to pass, he said.

Then, after that, the department ran astray of its own policy by letting the recruits make additional attempts after the course had ended, Imondi said.

“We held everybody else to that standard but now we’re not going to hold these recruits to that standard,” Imondi said.

Shooting a gun, he added, is an essential skill for a police officer.

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“You only have one shot out on the street,” he said.

Reached early Thursday evening, Clements said he’s aware of other situations where other recruits have received additional training and opportunities to qualify.

Imondi said that the course is basic and more than 1,600 recruits and police officers have met the requirements previously.

He presented language from a department policy that says any recruit who does not qualify on the first attempt “shall be afforded remedial training prior to the completion of the course.”

If a recruit can’t “meet or exceed the qualification standards” after the remedial training and after two additional attempts he or she “shall be immediately dismissed from that academy class without having graduated,” according to the policy provided by Imondi.

Clements’ statement says the department’s policy is under review and “will be amended as needed” and the same goes for the firearms training curriculum.

“Any changes made will be reflected in the 71st training academy curriculum,” he says.

The recruits of the city’s 70th police training academy are scheduled to graduate on Saturday.

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