Manager defends decision to issue statement about racist incident

Barrington's Jim Cunha says statement only represents his and council president's opinions

By Josh Bickford
Posted 8/14/20

It is not often that the town puts out a public statement regarding a police incident, said Barrington Town Manager Jim Cunha. But the recent video of an altercation between two Rumstick Drive …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Not a subscriber?


Start a Subscription

Sign up to start a subscription today! Click here to see your options.

Purchase a day pass

Purchase 24 hours of website access for $2. Click here to continue

Day pass subscribers

Are you a day pass subscriber who needs to log in? Click here to continue.


Manager defends decision to issue statement about racist incident

Barrington's Jim Cunha says statement only represents his and council president's opinions

Posted

It is not often that the town puts out a public statement regarding a police incident, said Barrington Town Manager Jim Cunha. But the recent video of an altercation between two Rumstick Drive residents warranted the response, he added.

"The video was going viral," Mr. Cunha said. "I thought, and Mike agreed, that we need to put out a statement."

Barrington Town Council President Michael Carroll and Mr. Cunha drafted the three-paragraph statement, had the town solicitor review it, and then posted it to the town's website on Friday, Aug. 7, a full day before Barrington Police Chief Dino DeCrescenzo shared a press release about the arrest of Dr. Richard Gordon.

(It is alleged that the Rumstick Drive resident assaulted his neighbor during a property line dispute, and video shows Dr. Gordon yelling racial slurs at his neighbor. Dr. Gordon's attorney has since issued a statement, alleging that it was his client who was assaulted.)

Mr. Cunha said he thought it was important to say that the actions depicted in the video do not represent the people of Barrington. He also said that the town will not tolerate that type of behavior.

"We don't want that language to reflect on the community," he said.

The statement from the manager and council president opened with the sentence: "The Town of Barrington is deeply troubled by the racial overtones of a recent physical altercation on Rumstick Drive."

Some people in town said that sentence seems to indicate that the message was representative of the entire community, or at least all town officials. But in a followup interview, Mr. Cunha said the statement only represented his own views and those of Mr. Carroll.

He said other members of the town council were not included in the creation of the statement or the decision to post it to the town's website.

However, Mr. Cunha later added: "It was important for the town to make a statement… for the leadership of the town."

Mr. Cunha said that while the investigation into the alleged assault is ongoing, the open nature of the case did not preclude him and Mr. Carroll from denouncing the language used by Dr. Gordon in the video.

"The statements being made are abhorrent," he said. "There is no doubt."

In the printed statement, Mr. Cunha and Mr. Carroll concluded: "The Town of Barrington extends its support to the victims in this case and stands with all those who condemn discrimination in any form. We want to make it crystal clear to all residents and visitors alike that behavior endangering the safety of anyone, which interferes in the quiet enjoyment of their home and property or which impacts basic civil rights will not be tolerated in any instance."

Mr. Cunha said he did not have any regrets issuing the statement.

"No regrets at all," he said.

Information offered

The statement signed by Mr. Cunha and Mr. Carroll shared information about the town's decision to seek the advice of the Rhode Island Attorney General's office on whether the arrest should be handled as a hate crime.

"The Attorney General's Office determined that the additional charge was not appropriate in this case," read the statement.

People who attended a rally outside Barrington Town Hall on Sunday, Aug. 9, peppered Mr. Cunha with questions about why the incident was not being handled as a hate crime, and some people requested Mr. Cunha alter the statement and add stronger language.

On Tuesday morning, Aug. 11, the RI Attorney General's office filed a notice of sentencing enhancement pursuant to the Hate Crimes Sentencing Act.

2020 by East Bay Newspapers

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.