By Barbara Haller
Everybody’s got an agenda. Worcester Police Chief Gary Gemme’s agenda is Successfully Making & Keeping Worcester a Safe City.
I have worked with Police Chief Gary Gemme since he was hired as Worcester’s Police Chief in 2004, most of this time as the District 4 city councilor (2002-2011) and in the last 3 years as a local resident and active community member. While chair of the Council’s Public Safety Committee we met nearly every month one-on-one to discuss community problems. I also met many times with him and key staff members and neighborhood constituents to discuss specific problems and strategies.
I also know Worcester for many years in many capacities. I went to school in the City (Worcester Junior and WPI), have worked in the City (NGRID), had a small business in the City (Gilrein’s). I own my home in the City (Main South). My daughter and her family live in the City (Newton Square); my grandchildren attend Jacob Hiatt. My partner owns and manages rental properties in Main South.
I know the struggle to get community policing to work. I know about problem employees, difficult people. I know about guns, drugs, and rock and roll. I know about partisan politics. I know about agendas – hidden and public ones.
Here’s what I know about Gary Gemme:
- Chief Gemme is the real deal when it comes to commitment and honor.
- Chief Gemme is a professional in all the positive ways – in touch, engaged, informed, pro-active.
- Chief Gemme has made and is making a significant impact on controlling and reducing crime.
When he agreed to be hired as Chief, he made it clear to then City Manager O’Brien that he would not compromise on his vision for the Department. The Manager agreed to support his efforts to change the Police Department culture and our community engagement in solutions to crime. The 2004 city council was delighted with Manager O’Brien’s success in hiring Gary Gemme as our Police Chief.
The Chief delivers.
He reorganized his department using the split force model allowing for effective reaction to crime and pro-active prevention. He put together a leadership team with targeted responsibilities and expertise. He takes action on firing ranges, gun permits, porn houses, knives, officer discipline, technology, party houses, street crime. He improves and grows partnerships with youth and youth-serving organizations, religious leaders, ethnic groups, athletic organizations. He works with the Office of Human Rights to improve officer training. He, working with Manager O’Brien, broke barriers among city departments to successfully develop inter-departments teams to address persistent problem properties.
The Chief’s commitment to neighborhood crime watches, foot beats, along with rapid response to data-driven hot-spots and developing crime trends is nothing short of great. Last week at my local neighborhood crime watch meeting, our community impact officers were engaged – giving updates on progress for previously reported problems, listening to neighbors’ concerns. Rather than standing up and telling us what to do, they sat with us and brainstormed possible solutions. The feeling of partnership was strong.
All this being said there are always those who look for opportunities to criticize. For those of us who are not dogmatic in our beliefs or who feel uninformed, these people cause us to pause and reconsider if we are going in the right direction. And sometimes they are right. And sometimes we change our views. And sometimes needed change comes.
And then there are always those to look for opportunities to misrepresent, demean, and incite. My experience is that these people have some grudge, a need to see their name in the media, sell papers, get elected, and/or feel obligated to always act against authority and position. There is an agenda and some ulterior motive. They too cause many of us to pause and consider. But we are mistaken if we allow them to lead us to change.
My experience with Police Chief Gary Gemme comes over many years and in many situations. His commitment to his job and Worcester runs deep. His motivation is honor and justice. We don’t have to always agree with him; we don’t have to like him. But we should respect his knowledge, expertise and professionalism.
We are fortunate to have Chief Gemme in service to our City. Those who are attempting to misrepresent his accomplishments, demean his character, and incite others to do the same are not acting in Worcester’s best interest. We would do well to ignore them.