To hear North Kingstown Police Chief Tom Mulligan tell it, he didn’t do anything special. In fact, when asked to speak about it, Mulligan seemed a little surprised about all the fuss.
But R.I. Attorney General Peter Kilmartin begged to differ, giving Mulligan at a ceremony last week a special “Justice” award for his decision to buy up all the bath salts and synthetic marijuana he found being sold in North Kingstown – as legislation to prohibit their sales was still wending through the General Assembly.
“While the General Assembly debated the fate the synthetic drug bill, Chief Mulligan took the extraordinary measure to rid his community of these extremely dangerous – although at the time legal – drugs from his community by going to retailers and purchasing them himself, with his own money, keeping them off the streets,” said former Attorney General Jim O’Neil, who nominated Mulligan for the Justice Award. “He did this without fanfare, without looking for recognition. He did it simply to protect the citizens of his community, and that is an example of a leader.”
The award was one of several presented at the ninth annual Justice Awards on Thursday, Sept. 5., in Providence. The awards recognize individuals and community organizations for exemplary commitment to justice and the community, and are presented in honor of the eight previous attorneys general.
Mulligan said he took the action after receiving a complaint from a parent. They were for sale in at least one location, Cory’s Car Wash on Post Road.
According to Mulligan, he bought the products two different times, in June and October 2012. Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed the bill into law on July 17.
Mulligan said his department would generally hear about use of the drugs after the fact, when a young person was acting strangely or already being treated at the hospital. He said there were a handful of cases — “We’ve typically been called after something unfortunate has happened.”
“He knew they were dangerous; he knew they were deadly,” said AG spokeswoman Amy Kempe. She said law enforcement in general was “in a quandary” during the period before the bill was signed into law because the drugs were still legal, but dangerous. Mulligan, she said, took matters into his own hands.
“We are extremely proud of our chief, who has been working along with the town's Working for Wellness Committee,” said NK Town Council president Liz Dolan. “The lingering problem of unknown and unregulated synthetic hallucinogens have made the headlines with tragic consequences this past week in both Boston and New York; Chief Mulligan and his staff have been diligent in monitoring potentially dangerous if not lethal chemicals that are being sold on the counters of a few of our local convenience sites. A special thanks to the Chief and his staff for their continuous hard work and dedication to the safety of our town.”