The true heroes of our society are the public safety officers who risk their well being to provide us a safer community. Under Chief Gary Gemme’s leadership, the Department has successfully implemented the Community Policing Model, created the Community Impact Division, and built a talented group of superior officers–all while dealing with the constraints of a shrinking budget.
Our respect for police officers and the work they do is based on a sacred trust. We expect that the leaders of our police department hold themselves to the highest police standards–one that the Chief now seems willing to break.
Over the past few years Chief Gemme has eroded the public’s trust with several different actions. First, the coerced confession of a 16 year old girl by two Worcester Police Detectives, uncovered by WBUR reporter David Boeri, is disturbing by itself. The shocking interrogation techniques led to a teenage girl spending nearly three years in jail. Adding to this already unfortunate situation is Chief Gemme’s unwillingness to acknowledge at least the potential of wrong doing by Detectives under his charge.
Unfortunately this incident does not stand alone where poor judgment is concerned. In the case of Officer Mark Rojas, Gemme ignored our public records law, which requires public bodies to respond within 10 working days, by taking almost 8 months to produce requested
I think Messy, Fox, and Paddy would describe it as the best part of their day– maybe even their life. A Worcester cop jumped into our path and yelled, “Come on, hit me! Hit me!” And they did. All three of them. One after the other. Three shoulder hits from (and I speak from personal experience) three of the hardest hitters in our league. When I looked back the cop was, thankfully, still standing. Meanwhile, Fox was yelling elatedly, “I hit a cop! I hit a
To kick off Sunshine Week in Worcester, the T&G today published the results of their attempts to look at various area police logs:
The law is clear: Police departments must keep and update a daily log of their activities, reported crimes and arrests, and that log must be readily available to the public at no cost and with no questions asked.
But a number of municipal police departments and state police barracks across the region failed to comply with that basic requirement this past week during a series of checks carried out by the Telegram & Gazette.
Worcester Police Headquarters
The requester went to the records office and asked if there was a public log of incidents and arrests and was directed to another office. Once there, a binder with all arrests was handed to the requester with no questions asked. When the requester asked if there was a list of incidents he was sent back to the records office. When the woman at the records office was asked if there was a list of just the incidents that police responded to from two days ago he was told, “You can’t get that. Do you know how many incidents we respond to?” At that point another receptionist grabbed a thin binder off a shelf and handed it to the requester. The binder contained a list of incidents the police had responded to over the past week with times, locations and incident types. The records office has a sign that says it is open Tuesday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“If the broad light of day could be let in upon men’s actions, it would purify them as the sun disinfects.” –Justice Louis Brandeis
March 11-17 is Sunshine Week, “a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.”
The T&G will be running a report on transparency in local government, and a group of residents will be petitioning the City Council to take action in four areas:
9t. Michael Benedetti request the archived city meeting videos be made available in a more easily accessible format that is shareable, downloadable and embeddable to support increased transparency and openness in government.
9u. Joe Scully request the creation of a public records and data retention policy regarding the use of social media technology to support increased transparency and openness in government.
9v. Christopher Robarge of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts request City Council support the passage of state legislation to promote freedom of information, open government, and accessible public records, including measures to minimize the costs of accessing public records and improve the use of information technology to make government information publicly accessible.
9w. Jeremy Shulkin request the establishment of an ombudsman or point person to handle all requests by individuals or media outlets requesting information on any city department and that this employee’s contact information be easily accessible on the city’s website to support increased transparency and openness in government.