Tikoian: Ready to give NP police honest ‘leadership and direction they deserve’

Tikoian: Ready to give NP police honest ‘leadership and direction they deserve’

New North Providence Police Chief David Tikoian, of Smithfield, is congratulated by his mother, Ann, after a press conference last Friday announcing his appointment. In the background is Tikoian’s brother, Gary. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Back in 2015, then-State Police Maj. David Tikoian came across a binder with $4,000 sitting inside it in the middle of Smith Street. He immediately tracked down its owner and returned the case.

Around that same time, former North Providence Chief Police John Whiting was sentenced to six months in prison for stealing $714 from the car of a woman back in 2011 and then trying to cover up the theft.

Mayor Charles Lombardi said last Friday that he hadn’t recalled Tikoian’s selfless action when he decided to name him the town’s new police chief, but said that act of integrity offers a great example of what Tikoian brings to the department and what was missing with some past leaders.

“It speaks volumes to his credibility,” he said.

Tikoian told The Valley Breeze he never gave a thought to keeping the money when he found it, instead finding the name of its owner inside the binder and giving it back to him. The owner was so surprised and happy that the money didn’t disappear that he offered Tikoian a $400 finder’s fee. Tikoian declined that offer, but he said the grateful man later told him that he’d paid the police official’s kindness forward by donating $400 to a Christmas gift drive for children at a Smithfield bank.

As first reported at www.valleybreeze.com last Friday, Lombardi appointed Tikoian, 49, as the town’s new police chief to replace embattled Acting Chief Chris Pelagio, who has been out on suspension since July 21. Lombardi said he felt it was important to bring in someone who had no ties to the department, and said he has no plans to micromanage his new chief.

Tikoian pledged to give police and residents the “leadership and direction they deserve,” and said he plans to be an active part of the North Providence community. He said he approaches every aspect of his life the same honest way, whether he’s working his job or finding money in the street.

Almost as soon as The Breeze posted the story last Friday, before Lombardi had made the official announcement, Tikoian said he started receiving a flood of congratulatory texts.

On social media sites, Lombardi’s choice was widely hailed as a positive move for the department and the town.

Lombardi said he wasn’t willing to wait for Pelagio’s future with the department to be cleared up before appointing Tikoian chief.

“We need a new direction, and I wasn’t going to wait any longer,” he said.

Tikoian, a longtime Greenville resident who will work his final day as manager of transmission and distribution for the Providence Water Supply Board this Friday, Aug. 11, comes to North Providence “with a wealth of experience in law enforcement,” said Lombardi in a statement.

“His background, knowledge and experience are the perfect fit for our department and its challenges,” he said.

Said Lombardi, “It’s no secret that our police department has experienced a few bumps in the road during the past 18 months or so, but now the time has come for us to turn the page and move on.

“It is time a new leader has the opportunity to make the North Providence Police Department the best in the state,” he said.

As public safety director, said Lombardi, “I cannot stand by and allow a few malcontents and disgruntled officers (to) stand in the way of a department with such great potential. My goal is to have one of the most professional and respected police departments in the state of Rhode Island.”

Just as the town’s fire department had some problems a few years back, said Lombardi, and is now the only Class 1 department in the state, he expects Tikoian to take the police department to the same place.

“Our residents deserve nothing less,” he said. “I ask all the men and women of our police department for their full cooperation.”

The mayor warned anyone who wants to stand in the way of the department achieving its full potential to “lead (with me), follow, or get out of the way.”

Tikoian served 23 years with the State Police before his retirement in May of 2015. As chief administrative officer, he was responsible for a $97 million budget and managed a human resource office overseeing more than 600 employees, among other duties.

During his career, he served at all five barracks as a member of the Uniform Bureau, the Rhode Island State Police Training Academy, detail leader of the Governor’s Executive Security Unit, night executive officer, and weekend officer in charge of the division. Prior to his promotion as major, he was captain of inspectional service, responsible for evaluating the operations of the agency.

The new chief is a graduate of Smithfield public schools and graduated cum laude from Bryant University in 1990. He was inducted into the Smithfield High School Hall of Fame last year, an honor he told The Breeze that was one of the greatest of his life.

An antique car enthusiast, Tikoian is active in his home community of Smithfield.

Tikoian will be formally sworn in on Tuesday, Aug. 22, at 6 p.m. in the North Providence High School auditorium. He’ll earn $92,000 and, unlike Pelagio, will not be a member of the police union.

The Breeze first reported on July 21 that Lombardi had suspended Pelagio. The mayor said he’d learned of new information related to incidents involving the chief. That announcement came four days before an investigative report from the Cranston Police Department was released detailing Pelagio’s behavior during a May ceremony in Cranston.

According to the report, Pelagio repeatedly antagonized a Cranston police sergeant who was serving in a color guard for the ceremony. Witnesses said he mouthed “f--- you” and “f---ing punk” as the sergeant stood with the American flag. He then confronted him after the ceremony, calling him a “two-bit punk,” among other things.

The Breeze later confirmed through a source that it was the contents of the Cranston police report that caused Lombardi to suspend Pelagio, who has been under fire in several other matters since becoming acting chief in 2014, including a sexual harassment lawsuit from a female police lieutenant.

Lombardi said last week that it was Pelagio who pushed to stay in the acting chief role, which kept him under the protection of the union. He said he couldn’t immediately say how much Pelagio benefited financially from that arrangement.

If Pelagio is cleared in the suspension case, he’ll have the right to return to the police department as a lieutenant, said Lombardi, though he doesn’t expect that to happen.

Pelagio has often been at odds with members of his department. Several police officers say morale has been at an all-time high since news of his suspension broke.

Dennis Stone, president of the North Providence FOP Lodge 13, repeated his stance that the police department had been “desperately in need of qualified permanent leadership” with morale the lowest it had been in years.

“Immediately following the suspension of Acting Chief Pelagio, there seemed to be an immediate rise in the morale,” he said. “That was apparent when nearly half of the department volunteered to work the National Night Out, knowing he would not be there.”

That momentum appeared to continue with the appointment of Tikoian, said Stone. He said he met with Tikoian and the new chief seems to have “some great ideas and vision” for the department.

“We are certainly going to do do everything we can to make sure those goals are reached,” he said. “We look forward to working with him and helping him help us put this place back on track.”

Sgt. Tom Jones, also of the union, said it’s “time to move forward” with a new chief.

“Looking forward to this change, and the opportunity to have the North Providence Police Department be brought into the current times of policing in today’s society and becoming a respected elite police department in New England.”

Comments

Congrats chief Tikoian. There is no question NP needs professional and positive leadership in the police dept., it would be nice if we had that throughout the town. Hopefully you are a strong minded person and can pay no attention to the Mayor but what is right for our town.

As public safety director, said Lombardi, “I cannot stand by and allow a few malcontents and disgruntled officer (to) stand in the way of a department with such great potential. My goal is to have one of the most professional and respected police departments in the state of Rhode Island.”
Maybe if the Mayor had listened in stead of just supporting the Acting Chief there wouldn't be malcontents and disgruntled officers. I hope Lombardi keeps his word and let the new Chief run the department. Here's wishing the new Police Chief good luck and support.

Chief,make us proud.

Kudos and best wishes to our new Police Chief, lets get the department on track and out of the news!

North Providence could not have asked for a better police leader. David Tikoian is the best of the best.
Congrats to both the town & David.

Jean Farmanian Ricci