Three Providence police officers, including a narcotics detective and a school resource officer, were arrested Thursday on charges that they helped with a cocaine-dealing operation.
Detective Joseph Colanduono, Patrolman Robert Hamlin and Sergeant Steven Gonsalves were arrested at police headquarters and have been suspended without pay, said Providence Police Chief Dean Esserman, who called it a "hard day" for his department. The officers either used the cocaine or helped arrange the drug deals, police said.
"These actions that we saw are an offensive display of a violation of trust that we cannot and will not tolerate," Attorney General Patrick Lynch said.
The chief of the State Law Enforcement Division met Thursday with the leaders of the tiny coastal town of Atlantic Beach to discuss a possible new partnership to stave off drug crime there during the coming summer months.
"Our plan is to be much more aggressive around the state, particularly when it comes to narcotics and violent-crime issues," said SLED Director Reggie Lloyd.
Lloyd traveled to Atlantic Beach for the informal meeting with the town's new attorney, Steve Benjamin of Columbia, a friend of his since law school. Sitting in the town's community center, Lloyd listened as Councilman Donnell Thompson, Police Chief Randy Rizzo and Town Manager Kenneth McIver described how Atlantic Beach's drug trade has mostly subsided.
Authorities arrested Guatemala's anti-drug czar and national police chief Tuesday in a case involving stolen cocaine and slain police, acting just two days before U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrives to discuss the drug war.
The detentions were the latest embarrassment for Guatemala's embattled anti-narcotics effort and came amid U.S. complaints that corruption is impeding the battle to stop the flow of drugs north through Central America.
Attorney General Amilcar Velasquez said Police Chief Baltazar Gomez, anti-drug czar Nelly Bonilla and police officer Fernando Carrillo were detained after an investigation by Guatemalan authorities and the U.N.-sponsored International Commission Against Impunity.
The arrests of Guatemala's drug czar and national police chief underscore how deeply the world's multibillion-dollar drug industry can corrupt small countries with weak institutions - a trend the Obama administration warned Wednesday threatens global security.
As U.S.-funded wars pressure cartels in Mexico and Colombia, drug gangs are increasingly infiltrating vulnerable countries, particularly in Latin America and Africa. Drug profits total about $394 billion a year, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime - dwarfing the gross domestic products of many nations and making them easy prey for cartels.
"Violent traffickers are relocating to take advantage of these permissive environments and importing their own brand of justice," the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's intelligence chief Anthony Placido said Wednesday in testimony before a U.S. House subcommittee.
The State Law Enforcement Division is reviewing information city leaders provided Thursday regarding allegations that William Bailey covered up a criminal domestic violence case, according to SLED spokeswoman Jennifer Timmons.
Bailey, the city’s public safety director, is on administrative leave for lying about an unrelated handgun theft.
City Manager John Smithson told The Sun News on Thursday that SLED is investigating the allegations.
The arrests followed a more than four-month investigation that began with information from a state police detective and involved wiretaps and intercepted phone calls. Police seized several hundred grams of cocaine and firearms as part of the probe.
Three other men were arrested, including Hamlin's brother, Albert, who police describe as a major cocaine dealer and the primary target of their investigation. Police say Robert Hamlin, a school resource officer at a Providence high school, helped his brother avoid getting caught by giving names of narcotics detectives and providing descriptions of their police cars, said State Police Capt. David Neill.
The Providence Journal reported on its Web site that Gonsalves is a former driver for Providence Mayor David Cicilline and the husband of the mayor's executive assistant, Xiomara Gonsalves. The Journal said the mayor described his assistant as "incredibly heartbroken."
Cicilline's spokeswoman, Karen Southern, did not return calls seeking comment Thursday night.
Also arrested was Khalid Mason, who in 2007 faced drug dealing charges that were dismissed by a federal judge after a Providence police sergeant testified at a pretrial hearing that he didn't have any notes or reports from his investigation. That case is not connected to the current arrests, police said.
Mason supplied drugs to Albert Hamlin, who would purchase one kilogram of cocaine at a time for about $35,000 and break down the drugs into smaller quantities, which he would then sell, police said.
Gonsalves, 47, is charged with soliciting another to commit a crime. Robert Hamlin, 33, is charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine, and Colanduono, 44, is charged with conspiracy to deal cocaine and compounding and concealing a felony.
A phone message left with the police union was not immediately returned, and it was not immediately clear if the officers had lawyers.
State Police Col. Brendan Doherty told The Associated Press that at least some calls were made when the officers were on duty, though police say there's no evidence that any drug dealing took place at a school.
Doherty said the alleged drug dealing was "the act of a few rogue officers - rogue officers who compromised the trust of the citizens of city of Providence and the state of Rhode Island."
Cicilline called the arrests "gravely disappointing" and said the officers deserve to be prosecuted aggressively.
The investigation is continuing.
Gonsalves was released on personal recognizance by a bail commissioner Thursday evening and is due in court March 18. The other five defendants, including the two officers, are being held without bail overnight and will be arraigned Friday in Providence District Court.