Domestic violence coalition commends Barrington police chief

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The executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence is commending Barrington Police Chief John LaCross for his handling of the case of Barrington Police Sergeant Joe Andreozzi.

In August, Chief LaCross requested an investigation by Rhode Island State Police into Sgt. Andreozzi after someone filed a domestic violence complaint against the 15-year veteran of the department. The State Police charged Sgt. Andreozzi with domestic disorderly conduct and Chief LaCross placed Sgt. Andreozzi on administrative leave at that time. In mid-November, the State Police charged Sgt. Andreozzi with obstruction of the judicial system, a felony; officials dropped the initial charge of domestic disorderly conduct.

Sgt. Andreozzi has not been convicted nor has he pled out to either charge.

On Friday morning, Deborah DeBare, the executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, issued a press release praising the local police chief and the State Police.

"We commend the Barrington Police Department and its Police Chief John LaCross for responsibly handling the Sergeant Joseph Andreozzi domestic violence case. In August 2012, they asked State Police to investigate the complaints lodged against Andreozzi by his ex-wife that led to an initial charge of domestic disorderly conduct. Through their actions, Barrington Police sent the message to domestic violence victims in Rhode Island that these crimes are serious and will be investigated—even if the abuser is one of their own," she wrote.

“We also commend the Rhode Island State Police, its Computer Crimes Unit, and the Attorney General’s office, for conducting a thorough investigation of the case that on November 16, 2012, led to an upgraded felony charge for obstruction of the judicial system and a misdemeanor charge for cyberstalking against Andreozzi. He allegedly sent threatening phone and text messages to his ex-wife before going to her home. This kind of abuse often escalates to physical violence; the actions taken in the Andreozzi case further served to protect his ex-wife from potential harm."

Ms. DeBare further wrote that the case holds special significance since it involves a police officer.

“A victim of domestic violence whose abuser is a police officer often faces unique barriers to leaving the relationship and obtaining safety. Victims often fear calling the police because they know the case will be handled by officers who are colleagues and possibly friends of their abuser. ... In the Andreozzi case this did not occur. Additionally, victims in this situation are particularly vulnerable because the abuser has a gun, knows the confidential locations of domestic violence shelters, and knows the legal system well.”

Chief LaCross has not commented on the case. He said he will withhold any comments until after the case is concluded.

Ms. DeBare said there are six local domestic violence agencies in Rhode Island that provide a wide array of services, including 24 hour hotline support, emergency shelter, support groups and assistance with the legal system.

"We urge all Rhode Islanders to remember that if they hear or see someone being hurt to call 911 immediately. And, if they or someone they know needs support to call the statewide Helpline at 800-494-8100.”

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.