Tag Archives: public safety

Body Cameras for the Worcester Police

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Walking the beat

By Gordon Davis

Several years ago, Worcester Police Chief Gary Gemme, now retired, announced that the Worcester Police Department was investigating the policy of the use of body cameras for on-duty patrol officers. Like with most “policy” issues in the City of Worcester, the investigation was conducted in secret.

Advocates of the policy of using body cameras pointed out that body cameras protect both the public and the police officers. The information provided by the video is considered indisputable, unlike oral testimony.

With body cameras the actions of a member of the public is clearly shown, and this protects police officers from false or unsubstantial complaints. Also, the actions of the police are clearly recorded, protecting the public from poorly trained police officers or officers who are abusive.

Body cameras are used in at least 42 large police departments nation-wide and many more smaller police departments. Boston is initiating the use of body cameras on a trial basis this year. Leicester (MA) and Brookfield already use them.

The overall results have been that the number of complaints made by the public are down and the number of arrests is also down. Both statistics point to a reduction of frivolous activity by the public and police. Such interactions over what many of us would call “frivolous” often lead to escalations.

The Worcester City Council has essentially abrogated it duty and responsibility to set policy for the Worcester Police Department. The City Manager and City Council are just rubber stamps for whatever the Police Chief and his cronies tell them.

There is no transparency in terms of complaints by the public.

There is no significant external oversight over use of funds.

Several Worcester City Councilors have passed resolutions in effect saying “support the cops – right or wrong.”

A group of residents are petitioning the Worcester City Council to have public hearings on changes to Worcester Police Department policies.

The petition will be given to the Worcester City Council at the August 16, 2016, Worcester City Council meeting.

Hopefully, if approved by City Council, the public hearings will be real and honest.

The public hearings should not be like City Manager Ed Augustus’ Department of Justice hearings in 2015 during which the police chief did not appear and the notes were lost!

The ACLU has come up with a set of rules, a policy for the use of body cameras by the police. The Boston Police Department has adopted 80 percent of the ACLU’s proposals.
These proposals include when the cameras should be turned on or off, who gets access to the videos, verification of the cameras’ operation, etc.

These proposals certainly could be used as a basis for the Worcester City Council establishing a body camera policy for the Worcester Police Department. The City Council should also conduct an audit about any money received via grants for a pilot program for body camera use.

I have been to a lot of City Council meetings and seen a lot of citizen petitions describing good policies for the City of Worcester. I have seen most of these petitions “filed” or thrown away. The petition regarding changes to Worcester Police Department policy is too important to be ignored.

Given the tensions between the public – especially people of color and the poor – and the police, there is a real need for the protection of our rights.

Grants secured to help firefighters and communities stay safe

$19.2 Million in Federal Fire Grants to Massachusetts

Congressman Jim McGovern joined the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation today in announcing that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has awarded a total of $19,237,879 in grants to seven Massachusetts fire departments and the Quincy-based Fire Protection Research Foundation.

Upton Fire Emergency Medical Services was among the Massachusetts fire departments that were awarded grants to support equipment acquisition, training, and staffing.

The Upton Fire Department is currently operating with 28 Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) which have been in service for a significant period of time and have become outdated.

This marks the fourth consecutive year that the Upton Fire Department has requested a grant to replace SCBA equipment with new air packs that meet modern safety and functional standards.

“Our communities are safer thanks to the brave service of our local firefighters,” Congressman McGovern said. “With these grants, we are making a strong investment in our Massachusetts firefighters, ensuring they have the tools and resources they need to protect our families and neighborhoods.”

He continued: “I join my colleagues across the Commonwealth in thanking our Massachusetts firefighters and fire chiefs for their tireless service and the sacrifices they make every day to keep all of us safe.”

Grants were also awarded to were awarded to the Duxbury Fire Department, Halifax Fire Department, Lawrence Fire Department, Fall River Fire Department, Boston Fire Department, and Bourne Fire Department.

Joining Congressman McGovern in today’s announcement were United States Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey, and Representatives Stephen F. Lynch, Niki Tsongas, and Bill Keating.

”Firefighters put themselves in harm’s way every day to protect our neighborhoods and keep our families safe,” said Senator Warren. “These grants will help ensure that Massachusetts’ fire departments have the staffing, tools and resources they need to do their jobs safely and effectively. Our fire chiefs and their departments deserve credit for their efforts to get these grants, and I want to thank them for their tireless service to the community.”

“One of the most important impacts our government can have is providing our first responders with the most modern, efficient equipment available,” said Congressman Keating. “The benefits of grants to firefighters are seen day in and day out in the lives saved and the communities protected.”

The following grants were announced today through the Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG), Fire Prevention & Safety (FP&S), and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs:

Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG):

Upton Fire Emergency Medical Services – Upton, MA – Federal Share: $173,334.00, for operation and safety

Duxbury Fire Department – Duxbury, MA -Federal Share: $166,667.00, for vehicle acquisition

Halifax Fire Department – Halifax, MA -Federal Share: $714,210.00, for vehicle acquisition

Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER):

Lawrence Fire Department – Lawrence, MA – Federal Share: $1,181,222.00, for hiring

Fall River Fire Department – Fall River, MA – Federal Share: $2,060,920.00, for hiring

Boston Fire Department – Boston, MA – Federal Share: $12,778,650.00, for hiring

Bourne Fire Department – Bourne, MA -Federal Share: $1,333,104.00, for hiring

Fire Prevention & Safety (FP &S)
Fire Protection Research Foundation – Quincy, MA – Federal Share: $829,772.00, for research and prevention

The AFG and SAFER grant programs are administered by FEMA to ensure that local fire departments and nonaffiliated emergency medical service organizations have the staffing, resources and equipment they need to protect communities and emergency personnel from fires and other related hazards.

Worcester Police Chief Gary Gemme DELIVERS

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.