In an incident captured by onlookers and spread on social media, Providence police officer Frank Moody pulled his gun on a man near Burnside Park in downtown Providence Sunday.
A group of 10 men were approached by police near the park on Sunday, according to a police report. One of the men, Kenneth L. Newman “approached Ptlm. Moody from his blind side and Newman made several movements toward his hip area, then Newman came within the reactionary gap of Ptlm. Moody made several loud verbal commands for Newman to sit down but [Newman] continued forward in a threatening, offensive posture toward Ptlm. Moody,” according to the police report. “At this time Ptlm. Moody drew his department issued firearm, and using loud verbal commands ordered Newman into a prone position.”
Providence Police Chief Hugh Clements said the reactionary gap is the area of personal space at which a person can come into contact with an officer. He said the suspect had a knife on his person and Officer Moody thought Newman was reaching for it.
“It appears the officer was very justified in pulling his firearm in this instance,” Clements said. “Based on what I know, I think he reacted properly to the threat to him.”
Clements said Providence police investigate every use of force by an officer – and use of force includes brandishing a gun. “If there is more to investigate, they will,” he said. “It doesn’t appear to me this will rise to that level. Only [Moody] and the officers on the scene know the exact totality of the threat to him.”
Clements said it is not uncommon for a Providence police officer to wield their guns. It happened more than 500 times last year, he said. “It happens at every single drug raid, every single gun arrest, every time there is a perceived threat to an officer,” he said. “Because it gets captured by someone on social media doesn’t mean it’s wrong.”
Providence police try to document every incident when an officer pulls their gun on a suspect, but Clements said some officers don’t. “It’s an area that we constantly struggle with making sure that we document,” he said, noting that it happened at least 500 times in 2015.
Clements declined to disclose how many times Officer Moody has pulled out his gun. He said Moody trains other officers in safe use of firearms and is a member of a police department SWAT team, known as the “tactical team” or “special response unit.”
Newman was not charged with a crime.