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Metro, News

‘I don’t feel safe’: Local man’s altercation with Providence Police prompts community outrage

Germaine Bruce’s Nov. 8 arrest was captured in social media video, recently released body camera footage

By
Metro Editor
Friday, December 4, 2020
Man in a black and light pink hoodie standing against graffiti

A video of Germaine Bruce’s Nov. 8 arrest by Providence Police has circulated widely among students, many of whom have expressed support for Bruce and denounced the police’s conduct during the arrest.

Some University students have taken to social media to denounce the Providence Police Department’s conduct during the arrest of two Black city residents on Wickenden Street near campus last month.

Germaine Bruce and Janelle Hazard, both of Providence, were arrested Nov. 8 for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after an altercation with Providence police officers, according to a PPD press release.

Bruce documented part of the incident in a video he posted which was circulated by many University students who voiced support for Bruce and Hazard.

Bruce, a 26-year-old Black man, told The Herald that the night of the incident, he was planning on driving to Thayer Street for a late-night snack when he got a call from Hazard, a former co-worker and a Black woman. Hazard asked him to help jump-start her friend’s car, which had broken down on the corner of Wickenden Street and Hope Street. Shortly after he arrived, a police officer drove by, parked and stood next to Bruce as he tried to jump the car, Bruce said.

According to Bruce, after he questioned why the officer was there and if the officer voted for President Donald Trump, more police officers arrived. While one officer attempted to help restart the car, the others were just “standing around doing nothing,” Bruce said.

The police officers told Bruce and Hazard that their cars, which were parked in one lane of a two-lane road, were going to be towed, Bruce said. According to a press release from the PPD, the vehicles were parked “in the middle of the outbound traffic lane,” and “police proceeded to render aid and inquire if the individuals needed assistance.” 

A back-and-forth verbal altercation between themselves and the police officers became physical leading up to the moment of their arrest, ending with police pulling Bruce to the ground and both Bruce and Hazard restrained and handcuffed, according to Bruce and Hazard’s accounts of the incident, in addition to body camera footage reviewed by The Herald. In the aftermath of their arrests and the attention Bruce’s video received on social media, both Bruce and Hazard are reflecting on the physical and emotional toll of the event. 

Body camera footage

The Providence Police Department released body camera footage of the incident in a Nov. 12 press release shared with The Herald. Although the video is edited such that the faces of the civilians are generally blurred out, Bruce and Hazard confirmed to The Herald that they were in the video.

For the first half of the footage, at least four police officers converse with the civilians, repeatedly suggesting they let the car be towed. Around the 18 minute mark of the video, the officers can be heard telling Hazard that her car will be towed because it was parked such that it faced the wrong way on the lane.

When Hazard then gets into her car, police officers can be overheard in the footage telling her that if she moved her car, she would be arrested. The officers and Hazard and Bruce argue about their interactions earlier in the night, which were not captured by the footage.

During the conversation, 23 minutes into the video, Hazard can be heard saying, “Oh, he’s got a hand on his gun.”

Bruce then can be heard telling a police officer to “take your hand off your gun.”

A male voice, presumably belonging to the officer Bruce addressed, is heard saying: “I’m resting my hand on my harness. I don’t want any of you guys trying to touch my firearm.” 

Twenty-five minutes into the video, the same voice can be heard saying, “If you don’t leave, you will be locked up for disturbing the peace and disorderly conduct.”

Throughout the video, voices presumably of officers can be heard repeatedly telling Bruce and Hazard that they were acting disorderly and asking them to leave or risk arrest.  

“I was talking crap to the cops,” Hazard later told The Herald, “but only because I didn’t understand why they would tow my car.”

Bruce can be seen briefly filming the scene as handcuffs appear in front of the body camera and a male voice presumably belonging to an officer can be heard asking, “Who’s going first, him or her?”

In the body camera footage, Bruce backpedals away from the police, repeatedly saying, “I did nothing.” Three officers chase him and one brings Bruce to the ground.

Just under 30 minutes into the video, the officer wearing the body camera is shown grabbing Hazard’s sleeve and telling her she is under arrest. 

While Hazard is being held, a voice can be heard saying “Taze him,” although it is not clear who the speaker is.

After this, the body camera recording the released footage falls to the ground, filming upwards. From this point, Hazard and the officer cannot be seen for a short period of time, although yelling can be heard. An officer later returns to pick up the camera.

Following the arrests, an officer refers to one of the arrestees as a “prisoner” and calls one of them “feisty.” The video ends shortly after when the tow truck arrives.

Bruce, Hazard and community members reflect

Noting rising tensions between Hazard and the police officers, Bruce started recording, which he told The Herald made the police noticeably more aggressive. 

Then, Bruce said he saw an officer “place his hand on his holster.”

“I was like … we’re not even threatening you, nobody has any weapons,” Bruce said. 

Both Bruce and Hazard were arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. According to the PPD, these results were “pursuant to police policy regarding adverse compliance.”

This incident is currently under review. “Our Police Department is committed to a transparent community policing strategy that builds trust with residents and responds to our community’s needs,” Mayor Jorge Elorza said in a press release. 

Video footage taken by Bruce was posted on Bruce’s Instagram, where it circulated widely among University students and others and gained around 8,600 likes to date. 

Samy Amkieh ’21.5 found out about the incident on social media, as did Aida Sherif ’22 and Zara Norman ’22, all of whom donated to a Facebook fundraiser to help cover Bruce’s legal costs.

It happened “right in a place where a lot of Brown students live,” Amkieh said. “A friend called a friend at three in the morning because their car died … and because he didn’t immediately comply with some order to stay on the sidewalk when there was literally no one in the roadway … (the police) took out handcuffs.”

The incident “was just so emblematic of how policing can cause harm,” Amkieh added. “I don’t know what harm they were preventing, but it certainly caused harm directly to (Bruce), to his family and now he has to go through legal battles. It’s just one big joke of a system, and the joke’s on mostly Black and brown people, mostly working class folks, because they have to bear the brunt of it.”

Sherif was similarly bothered by “the fact that … actually no criminal activity occurred at all … (it) goes to show how aggressive the Providence Police Department is against people of color and Black people specifically.”

“It was shocking and upsetting that it happened so close to somewhere that I consider home and somewhere I consider safe,” Norman said. “This was different and that we could absolutely see (what happened), and his injuries were documented. It sort of felt like if he can’t get justice when he has the highest standard of proof, then what hope is there for anyone else,” she added.

In response to these allegations, PPD spokesperson Lindsay Lague wrote in an email to The Herald that “the Providence Police Department has a long standing and well known history that is based on our Community Policing Model.” She declined to comment further beyond the press release.

In the wake of the arrests, Bruce and Hazard said their lives have changed. 

Bruce, who has taken time off work, has not only had to grapple with the effects the incident has had on his mental health, but also on his physical health. 

“It is draining me — it’s still hard to work, to walk, honestly … my shoulder was messed up, my face is still healing, my arms, my ribs still hurt … (I’ve slept) three, four, hours in the last couple days,” he said. “I have yet to leave my house besides to pick up my police report … I don’t feel safe.” 

Hazard said her daughter knows that she was arrested. Her daughter has asked her: “‘Mommy, are the cops going to arrest you?’” Hazard said that her daughter was so afraid of her getting arrested again that she was not willing to leave her side. “She wouldn’t get in the car until I got in the car, and she’s only four years old, so that hurt.” 

“That’s something I never thought in a million years that would happen to someone in my family,” Kearra Harris, Bruce’s sister, said. “When I saw that video (of Bruce’s arrest), I broke down because that’s not right,” she said. “Just looking at my brother I just broke down and just wanted to hold him.” 

After the arrest, Harris started the Facebook fundraiser for her brother to raise money for a lawyer. The fundraiser has gathered $1,948 to date for Bruce’s legal fees.

Harris added that police officers should not use as much physical force as she saw her brother experience, and that the department should “do more” to prepare officers “physically and mentally for the streets.”

“Now that I’ve gone through this,” Bruce said, “I can’t look at a cop the same now.”

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  1. It’s a shame cooler heads didn’t prevail in this situation. Obviously 2:45 am on a Saturday night/ early Sunday morning is not very busy in the city of Providence as evidenced by the amount of officers on scene. The police department’s job is to enforce laws and a broken down automobile towed is an easy source of revenue for an already cash-strapped city. The officers gave the owners plenty of time to try to get the car started and/or call a tow truck and/or push it to the gas station less than a quarter of a mile away. Once the conversation moved away from problem-solving the automobile to other topics like arguing with the officers things escalated very quickly.

  2. Although it is confusing when one officer is telling you that you cannot leave in your car because it is going to be towed while the other officer standing right next to the first officer is warning you that if you do not leave you will be arrested for being disorderly.

  3. Former staff says:

    Spoiler alert: this is who you’re going to see a lot more of if you eliminate Brown PD. Still sound like a good idea?

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