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Exclusive: Underage Drinkers at Chief Esserman’s Home

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Providence Police Chief Col. Dean Esserman stood on his front lawn and watched underage drinkers—carrying beer cans and cases of beer—leave his East Side home late Friday evening following a graduation party.

Over the course of two hours, GoLocalProv viewed dozens of young people partying on Esserman’s property (which was decorated with balloons on the front lawn) and on the street near the home—a possible violation of the state’s “social host” law.

Shortly after 11:00 pm, young people were watched fleeing the party, some in vehicles and many on foot. At that point, Chief Esserman, dressed in citizen attire, appeared on the front lawn and watched as droves of young people scrambled to jump in cars or walk away from the party.

One group of at least eight males was viewed carrying a case of beer down the street as they talked about what had just occurred. They did not appear to be happy with having to leave the party. Their conversation suggested an argument took place between the boys and the Police Chief.

“I don’t care who he is,” a member of the group was overheard saying. “I know who you are. You’re the Chief of Police.”

Party Was Broken Up: “I think too many people showed up.”

Asked to confirm he had just left Esserman's house, one young person said, “Yeah, we just got kicked out.” The boy refused to elaborate.

When another young person was seen walking down the street around midnight, GoLocalProv asked the boy if he was just leaving the party.

“Yes but it’s over now,” he said. “It got broken up.”

It is unclear why the party was broken up before midnight. The size of the party may have had something to do with it, according to one young person quoted as he left the house.

“I don’t know what happened,” he said. “I think too many people showed up.”

Rhode Island’s Social Host Law

In 2008, Governor Carcieri signed legislation that called for harsher penalties (in some cases, criminal charges) for adults when they knowingly allow underage parties that involve alcohol to take place anywhere on their property.

Under state law, a first-time conviction is a misdemeanor and punishable by a fine and/or six months imprisonment. A second conviction increases the fine and a third conviction becomes a felony and could lead to a year in prison.

GoLocalProv did not see a single police officer or police car during the two hours spent monitoring Esserman’s home. No arrests appeared to be made.

MADD Response

Reached early Saturday morning, Gabrielle Abbate, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Chapter of MADD, said she wants to look into additional details regarding possible impaired driving incidents before making judgment.

But she said adults should pay extra attention during prom and graduation season.

“This incident is yet another example of EVERY PARENT/ADULT being vulnerable to the challenges of hosting parties which involve underage persons,” she said in an e-mailed statement. “Parties, particularly those associated with celebrating proms and graduations demand extra attention, guidelines, and rules BEFORE the celebration takes place.”

Councilman: Suspend Him Immediately

One of Esserman’s outspoken critics, 6th Ward Councilman Michael Correia, called on Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare to suspend Esserman immediately and launch an investigation.

“If these allegations are true, the Chief should not just be suspended, he should be terminated,” Correia said. “I believe he should be suspended without pay until the allegations are looked into by Commissioner Pare. If they’re true, he should be terminated.

Chief Esserman did not return phone calls Saturday morning.

A spokesperson for the city said the Taveras administration was still looking into the report and would be available for comment later in the day.



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