PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A former Providence police recruit who is Black endured race-based harassment and humiliation at the hands of his instructors at the police academy before he was dismissed based on undeserved demerits, the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island said in a lawsuit filed Tuesday.
Michael Clark, of West Warwick, was subjected to “retaliatory, punitive, discriminatory, threatening, demeaning and humiliating treatment” during his time at the academy in 2019, the federal lawsuit alleges. As part of a training exercise on the use of a stun gun, while other recruits received a single shock, Clark was the only recruit subjected to repeated shocks, which left him crawling on the floor, bleeding and with skin burns, the lawsuit says.
Clark is seeking damages as well as retraining of academy instructors.
A Providence police spokesperson said in an email that the department would have no comment on pending litigation.
Clark was singled out by instructors because of Christian rap songs that he had written and posted on social media about a year before he attended the academy, including one that referred to “black men being killed by police,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit says Clark was subjected to off-the-job surveillance by training officers and given extracurricular assignments other recruits were not given, and then given demerits based on the training officers’ judgment that he had poorly executed those assignments.
Despite passing all of the academic and physical fitness requirements at the academy, Clark was dismissed a few weeks before graduation for accumulating too many demerits.
“I applied to the Providence Police Academy because I wanted to make a difference in my community,” Clark said in a statement. “I grew up in Providence, graduated from LaSalle Academy and attended Johnson and Wales University. I wanted the opportunity to give back to the city of Providence. I am deeply disappointed that I was dismissed from the academy.”