Chief Gemme Should Resign or Be Removed

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

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records by a media outlet. When pressure grew, Gemme thumbed his nose at the law by producing a largely blacked out document–forcing the City to spend time and money on needless litigation.

Another egregious breaking of our sacred trust is a criminal case involving Officer David Rawlston. After an investigation by highly respected Sgt. Mark Richardson and the D.A. no charges were filed against Rawlston. On March 13, 2009 then-Captain Edward McGinn testified under oath that Gemme directed him to have Sgt. Richardson rewrite his report, and if he refused this order he would be transferred out of the Detective Bureau. To the credit of Deputy Chief McGinn, he did not act on Gemme’s order and Sgt. Richardson was in fact transferred out of the Bureau. Gemme continued to show poor judgment when he demanded the City ignore the rulings of two independent arbitrators and a Superior Court judge and appeal the reinstatement of Rawlston.

After members of the City Council questioned the professionalism of 4 WPD press releases which criticized and at times personally attacked people who questioned WPD actions, Gemme opened a personal Twitter account. He responded to a City Councilor’s reference to the releases as sophomoric by posting “Food fights tend to be “sophornoric” never pretty.. Sometimes they are necessary and worthwhile.. Particularly when you are right..” After Judge Kenton Walker ruled against the WPD he posted “Judge Kenton-Walker. Cognitive bias. What more can be said?” These actions are childish and not ones you would expect from a police chief of a major city.

Based on the forgoing it is time to take action. However, Chief Gemme’s contract produces some complications. Per this document “The City shall defend . . . against any tort, constitutional claim, professional liability, claim, or demand, or other legal action, whether groundless or otherwise, arising out of an alleged act or omission occurring in the performance of his duties . . . and “If the . . . working relationship ceases to exist, Mr. Gemme shall have the option of retaining his rights and privileges under civil service rules . . . and remain in the position of Chief of Police or return to his civil service rank of captain . . . Any attempt by the City to remove Mr. Gemme or begin formal progressive discipline will be considered a cessation of the working relationship.”

In short, the City must absorb any legal costs as a result of Chief Gemme’s poor decision making and at the same time he retains a certain degree of contractual infallibility. The problem is Chief Gemme can ignore the rule of law and at the same time potentially place the City in grave financial danger.

To be clear–Chief Gemme is not a scapegoat here but rather a willing participant in enabling abuse of the law. He has a professional and moral obligation to ensure that the laws set forth by the Judícial and Legislative branches of government are enforced. While I consider loyalty one of man’s greatest traits Chief Gemme is wrong, dead wrong, to defend these actions and has chosen to turn his back on the oath he took, now believing that only his opinion matters, that he alone is judge and jury.

Due to Mr. Gemme’s unusual contract the City Manager is limited in ways to criticize or reprimand him. Well I signed no such agreement and neither did the citizens of Worcester–it’s well past the time for Chief Gemme to resign or be removed and end our descent into this warped déjà vu of “Dysfunction Junction”.

Note: An abbreviated version of this op-ed was published in today’s Telegram & Gazette.

9 thoughts on “Chief Gemme Should Resign or Be Removed

  1. Amen Jim! These have been my thoughts for the longest time. If only the city council was afraid of actually calling out his actions more often. Especially Eddy, who praises Gemme actions like he is the Pope

  2. Amen to this. It’s time the city reel in this police department. They do great work but between settling lawsuits for over zealous officers and completly defying public information laws, we have a department leader openly breaking the law. If anyone else did that we’d be called criminals.

  3. You nailed it right on the head. We shouldn’t stand for further misconduct by the police, and furthermore we simply cannot afford it.

  4. I agree with your letter 100%. This is something that has been bothering me for a long time. I even went as far as to invite investigation on the matter from outside sources but with no reply. There are even more reasons for investigation of Chief Gemme, such as his awarding overtime work to his brother and many other issues. I think it is a shame that the honest hard-working police officers of this city have to be tainted by association with him. Until our city manager stops supporting him wholeheartedly or unless the matter gets greater scrutiny from a larger area or greater authority, I feel very disheartened in saying that I doubt that anything will change.

  5. Worcester politics is alive and well. This is basically the end of Gemme. This will drag on for a while. Its just a matter of time before another incident will take place. Remember there are people salivating within those walls looking to move up in rank. The Chief’s job is the prize. Gemme will eventually leave. He is probably looking to go somewhere else as we speak. Maybe corporate security. Who knows. But this isn’t over. Obviously nobody had the testosterone to put their signature on his noose. Rushton thought they were all going to rally behind him. Wrong!! Earth to Rick…. Nobody likes you either. You just think they do. Suddenly a policy is created after the Chief starts Tweeting. A little immature you think? Could you see Davis in Boston doing that? Would never happen. Mennino would remove him in a New York minute. Of course this really isn’t a City. Its a giant town. And everyone knows somebody, especially in City Hall. The dirt is always there. You just have to reach down and pick it up and run with it. Bill Eddy does nothing in either the district or the committee he chairs. What a surprise. What is the point of having representatives if they don’t represent. The worst thing that ever took place was paying City Councilors for a part time position. Its time to rethink this issue. They now just hang on getting along for the benefits. They are not there to represent the Districts anymore. They are there for the connections they can make and the vertical movement of their friends and families. Do you remember the days of Jordan Levy, Ray Mariano, Arthur Chase and Wayne Griffin? The debate wasn’t about the Police Department, it was about taxes and services. Now its about how many hard working, low paid people they can get rid of and how many TIF’s they can give away with taxpayer’s money. Its time for Worcester to grow up, change this form of government and when a department head has lost the confidence in its leaders and employees its time to make the changes that need to be made. I’m sure Gemme realizes he has made mistakes. But the real mistakes are coming from City Hall. They fear Gemme. I wonder why. Could there be more of those sweepings that he collected and knows a few things that nobody else knows. Time will tell.

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