Waste 102: High-Tech Toys for One Rhode Island Police Department

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," March 11, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: And the countdown continues now. Now, the administration has long promised that this was a plan that would create jobs.

But as number 99 on our countdown shows, creating jobs is not part of the criteria when it comes to spending your hard-earned tax dollars.

Now take a look as our own Ainsley Earhardt travels to Providence, Rhode Island, where some high-tech toys have put the city's police department in hot water.


AINSLEY EARHARDT, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Sean, No. 99 on our list brings us right here, to Providence, Rhode Island. This is the police department behind me. They're getting $95,000, your tax dollars, stimulus money to buy new BlackBerries for their supervisors. They say it's going to help fight crime. We're here to find out how it will stimulate the economy and how many jobs it will actually create.

(voice-over) For decades police departments across the country have been fighting crime the old-fashioned way. So our question is, was this really the best time for the Providence police to go high-tech when so many people could have used the extra financial help?

(on camera) We, of course, wanted to hear their side of the story, so we contacted the police department. But the chief denied our request for an interview.

(voice-over) So we ventured downtown to see what small business owners and residents thought of their police department's expensive purchase.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's unnecessary, totally unnecessary. I can't afford a BlackBerry. So I mean, I just think there's better ways to spend the money.

EARHARDT: Most people we spoke with feel the Providence Police Department spending almost $100,000 on BlackBerries is extreme.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't have a BlackBerry. And the phone call gets through just the same.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Taking our country right off the cliff. And I'm concerned. I really am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would rather see the money going toward, perhaps, a little more job creation, would be nice.

Maybe they wouldn't have to lay off the police if they took some of the money from the BlackBerries and maybe created a couple more salaries with that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I have grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and I'm thinking for their sakes, we've got to stop this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been in business with my father 65 years. On 1945 when opened up and I was a little boy. Right now, this is real bad.

EARHARDT (on camera): How is this economy affecting you?


EARHARDT: In what way?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I've never seen it like this, you know, so slow. And we hold on, because I'm — I'm more or less settled. I feel bad for the businessman that has loans and that's trying to start a business and everything. There's no business. How are they going to do it?

EARHARDT (voice-over): Even former local politicians are surprised by the spending. Joe Paolino served as the mayor of Providence from 1984 until 1991. He, too, can't understand how buying BlackBerries is supposed to help with the stated goal of creating jobs.

JOSEPH PAOLINO, FORMER PROVIDENCE MAYOR: That is not how you stimulus money. Stimulus money is supposed to create jobs. So I believe that having BlackBerries, good idea. All police departments should have it. In regards to creating jobs, high-speed rail. That's where stimulus money should be.

EARHARDT: Buddy Cianci was the longest-sitting mayor in Providence history, serving as mayor from 1975 until 1984 and from 1991 until 2002.

VINCENT "BUDDY" CIANCI, FORMER PROVIDENCE MAYOR: I'm not saying those aren't worthy expenditures, but if the money was supposed to be utilized for stimulating the economy and creating jobs, in this environment in which we live, I don't think a lot of that money was allocated toward creating jobs. It was maybe feathering the nests of some officers, who are getting a lot more money in overtime. But it hasn't hired anybody new.

EARHARDT (on camera): Small business owners are saying, "I don't want to talk about this on camera. I don't want to say anything against the police department, because they can come in and take away my liquor license or shut me down or whatever."

A lot of people are scared to talk against the police department. Do you think that the police department has some sort of power here? You're one of the few that's speaking out against it.

CIANCI: Well, I'm not speaking out against the police department. I'm speaking out against the leadership of the police department, because after all this money that's been spent, it hasn't had any effect on the crime rate.

As a matter of fact, the crime rate has gone up 12 percent. So — and violent crime in the rest of the country is going down. So I fail to see where the stimulus money has, in fact, been utilized to its most efficacious end. It really hasn't.

PAOLINO: Highways, filling all the potholes all the cities have. Rebuilding schools, that creates real jobs. Blackberries don't.

EARHARDT (voice-over): Was giving supervisors BlackBerries the best way the Providence police could have spent the stimulus funds? Many feel the money could have gone to hiring one or two more officers and would have done more to keep the residents safe and the officers employed.

(on camera) This used to be a very busy, popular restaurant, attached to the mall here in Providence, Rhode Island. But as you can see, the tables are gone, the doors are closed, and the restaurant boarded up. Just another sign of the economic times here in this city.

Unemployment here in Providence, 14 percent. That's well above the national average. So Sean, folks in this community are telling me they need jobs, not BlackBerries.


HANNITY: And thanks, Ainsley.

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