About 100 people gathered inside of Johnston High School’s auditorium on Friday for a socially distanced ceremony celebrating the promotion of Joseph Razza and Mark Vieira to the roles of Johnston Police chief and deputy chief, respectively.
Several local and state dignitaries attended and spoke to commemorate the occasion, including Mayor Joseph Polisena, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, Lt. Gov. Dan McKee and Attorney General Peter Neronha.
Razza has worked for the department for 22 years, after starting his career with a brief stint in Jamestown. The former deputy chief, Razza spoke for about 10 minutes towards the end of the event, after his wife, Mandi, officially pinned him as the new leader of the force.
“I want to thank each of you from the bottom of my heart for coming out today and showing me your support,” Razza said. “It truly means the world to me, especially during these unprecedented times. I am very appreciative and truly flattered.”
Razza takes over for Chief Richard Tamburini, who made his retirement official in August after 25 years at the helm of the JPD. Razza thanked Tamburini for his decades of service and tutelage, adding that their promotions should be “deeply rewarding” for him.
“As you approach your retirement, you should consider my promotion another achievement in your long and distinguished law enforcement career,” Razza said.
He was also sure to thank Mandi, as well as his mother, Joan, and late father, Pasco, for their unending support over the years. He said his family has always been his inspiration, as well as his “focus, pride and motivation.”
“I know that life’s accomplishments are only achieved with the love and endorsement of our families, and to accomplish what we truly desire in life, we must commit to your dreams, and my family has allowed me to do that,” Razza said.
He reflected on his time at the Jamestown Police Department, during which time he met Neronha during a game of pickup basketball.
He said he built strong and lasting relationships during his short time on the island, and recalled a story from his training officer that came full circle on the auditorium stage.
“My training officer way back then told me, he could see me being a police chief some day,” Razza said. “Well, as you can imagine, as a 26-year-old recruit, I immediately thought the guy had been breathing too much salt air and said to myself, what did I get myself into?”
He got himself into a law enforcement career that would soon take him to Johnston, where decades later he has risen to the ranks of chief. He closed his remarks with a preview of what his tenure will look like and what his officers can expect.
“I will tell the men and women of the Johnston Police that I expect them to give their very best to everyone, because I know that every member is a highly capable individual,” Razza said. “A true leader leads from the front knows what’s going on in the rear and puts the needs of all others above their own. I promise all of you, especially the residents of Johnston, nothing less.”
He said the force is a family, and was sure to thank former members and staffers in and out of the department. He specifically acknowledged Dan Parrillo – former deputy chief and current director of administration for Cranston Mayor Allan Fung – for always providing “sound advice and words of encouragement.”
He also gave shout-outs to his administrative assistant Lori Anderson, as well as Polisena’s chief of staff Doug Jeffrey and administrative assistant Janet Whiteley.
“I am not here to reinvent the law enforcement wheel, I am here to enhance it,” Razza said. “These are challenging times in law enforcement, but together we will meet these challenges head on, promote the very best law enforcement concepts and practices to meet these new challenges, and in the end we will set the bar for all others to follow.”
Razza closed his speech by congratulating Vieira, a 17-year veteran of the JPD, on his promotion. Vieira was pinned by his wife Erica, alongside his sons Anthony and Marco.
“I congratulate you and your family on your promotion, as it is well deserved,” Razza said. “I don’t know what the future holds, but I can assure everyone that I am committed to serving and will pour every ounce of energy into being your chief … Your residents will always rest easy at night during my watch.”
The praise for Razza and Vieira was effusive all morning long, and speakers also offered their well wishes to Tamburini in retirement. He received the department’s Meritorious Medal of Conduct shortly before the conclusion of the ceremony.
Polisena, a staunch supporter of the department, offered his continued support of the JPD. He also reiterated that he has no intentions of defunding the police, going so far as to say that Johnston would withhold mutual aid from neighboring communities should they decide to do so.
“These are our men and women who put their lives on the line every single day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and I hope that the Johnston citizens realize the importance and know what they do,” Polisena said. “Obviously they’re the buffer between the good, which is the citizens, and the evil, which is the criminals.”
He said Razza and Vieira were chosen because of the mutual respect and trust they have for Polisena and vice versa.
“Promotion just isn’t a pay raise, it’s a huge responsibility,” Polisena said. “As leaders, they become role models for those they supervise. They become trusted confidantes for those that they lead. Their decisions for the department become crucial for the day-to-day operations of the safety of the members, but also the citizens over which they serve.”
Reed said that Razza has earned the respect and admiration from his fellow officers, while Vieira has been “exemplary” in his role as a captain.
“He’s done it again with the dedication and determination that distinguishes him as an outstanding police officer,” Reed said of Vieira. “He has led the way in so many different ways, not only as a police office but as a mentor to other police officers.”
McKee echoed those sentiments, saying the JPD is in “good hands” with Razza and Vieira leading the way.
“So keep up the good work,” McKee said. “It’s nice to be with a whole bunch of people at this point in time considering we’ve been doing all our work virtually over the last six months. Stay healthy, let’s keep on working hard.”
Neronha spoke of his personal connection to Razza, meeting him decades ago at the aforementioned pickup game. He said Chief Tamburini is the gold standard, saying the department has been professional every time he’s visited as either United States Attorney or Rhode Island Attorney General.
He expressed no doubt that Razza – whom he called a “person of character, and of principle, and humility” – will have an issue filling Tamburini’s shoes.
“He’s a good guy, he’s smart,” Neronha said. “It’s not easy to pick up the mantle of Chief Tamburini, but Joe can do it.”
He said he doesn’t know Vieira as well, but got a laugh when giving his vote of confidence.
“I know that’s a good Portuguese name, so I know he’s going to be fantastic as well,” Neronha said.