EAST PROVIDENCE — An orderly transition of power, a step in a different and slightly new direction took place in the East Providence Police Department Tuesday, July 1, as the resignation of former Chief Joseph Tavares from active duty became official and Major Christopher Parella rose to the rank of acting chief.
According to Acting Chief Parella, also known within the department as the Deputy Chief or second in command, not much changed from his usual duties. The better part of Tuesday was spent conducting staff meetings, including one attended by Acting City Manager and East Providence’s Public Safety Commissioner Paul Lemont, and general oversight of operations.
“We have a lot of work to do and I’m looking forward to it,” Acting Chief Parella said Tuesday afternoon.
The acting chief deflected any notion his term in the interim is an audition or rehearsal for taking over the position on a permanent basis.
“I’ve been evaluated for the 24 years I’ve been in the department. I spent 16 years as a supervisor,” Acting Chief Parella continued. “I refuse to even acknowledge it. I’m doing basically the same things I did as Deputy Chief. I’m trying to make this organization better and serve our constituents. It’s a new day in the East Providence Police Department. It’s not about the past. It’s about moving forward with the best interest of my officers and the people of East Providence in mind.”
Tuesday was not Acting Chief Parella’s first time sitting in the top spot. He also served as acting chief when former City Manager Peter Graczykowski placed Chief Tavares on administrative leave back in the spring of 2013. Acting Chief Parella rose to the rank of Major when then Deputy Chief Charles Swenson retired in the winter of 2012-13.
The department Acting Chief Parella takes over this time is one still reeling for infighting and back-biting that were prevalent throughout most of Chief Tavares’ tenure. It’s also one trying to rebuild its ranks, reputation and resiliency.
“We have some serious manpower and personnel issues. We have ongoing investigations and some other projects we need to address. We’re in the middle of the holiday season. We have a lot of work to do,” Acting Chief Parella added. The department is down to 93 officers from a high of some 115 several years ago. “We also need to mend some relationships and improve the morale. It’s my duty to step up and face the challenges.”
Mr. Lemont, in fact, used very similar words when he addressed the current state of the EPPD.
“I want people to step up to the plate, show me what they’ve got,” Mr. Lemont said. “I’m going to spend some substantial time evaluating the performance of the department. If the current leadership can plug up the holes, show me they can get the job done, then I’ll promote the right people. But I’m not going to be panicked or pushed into anything. I want to see how the department functions before I make any more decisions.”
For his part, Acting Chief Parella said he is fine with parameters put in place by the Acting City Manager. He said he’s eager to take on and accept the tasks at hand. He does so a bit unfortunately after having had significant shoulder and knee surgeries in recent weeks, which has restricted some of his activity.
“I’m extremely grateful to the confidence the city manager has shown in me and the support of the officers has already been outstanding. They’re my No. 1 concern along with the people of East Providence,” Acting Chief Parella concluded. “I’m going to perform the duties as if I was the permanent chief. And if I’m lucky enough to be named the chief permanently, then maybe I’ll make some changes, take the department in a different direction. But right now, it’s just about moving forward, leading the officers in this department and serving the constituents of the city.”