at approximately 10:44 PM Worcester Police responded to the Honey Farms Market located at 443 Park Avenue for a reported unarmed Robbery of an individual. Upon the officers arrival they met with a 39 year old male victim. The victim, who is mentally disabled, was able to explain
to the officers that he was robbed of his wallet out in the store parking lot.
According to the victim, a male suspect followed him inside the store as he made a purchase. The male suspect kept close to him while inside the store making witnesses believe that the male was his caretaker. Once outside, the suspect ripped away his wallet that was attached to a chain around his neck. The suspect ran off on Park Avenue. There were no contents inside the victim’s wallet.
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.
I penned this open letter to Chief Gemme and the community after finding that the Worcester Police Department (WPD) removed from the WPD Facebook page an earlier letter I wrote raising concerns about Worcester shifting away from Community Policing towards Predictive Policing . Community members have also now documented that other posts and comments raising issues or making critical comments have also been removed.
February 17th, 2012
Dear Chief Gemme,
Yesterday I publicly shared my concerns with you regarding the Worcester Police Department’s (WPD) training on Predictive Policing and the inherent conflict, danger and disruptive nature of pursuing such a new course while also attempting to implement Community Policing.
This is a crucial conversation for our community as we struggle to effectively prioritize limited policing resources and funding, and so I had directed my elected officials and local media to also read and respond.
Unfortunately, the letter Iposted to the Worcester Police Department’s Facebook page has been either blocked, hidden or deleted which raises immediate concerns vis a vis transparency, constituent communication with elected officials and data retention. I have since been told that communications from other Worcester residents have also been removed. Why is the Worcester Police Department opposed to people asking questions and raising issues? Is that not the definition of Social Media?
Please do not dismiss this as a Myspace food fight, you had seemed to understand the new primacy of digital communication. With the launch of the WPD’s foray into social media you wrote, “Social media is not only the future, but the present. Communicating directly with the public and providing current information through innovative platforms is critical to maintaining trust. “
While exasperated teens and dueling friends are free to simply delete unwanted comments and criticisms posted to their Facebook pages you are not. As you have been frequently reminded, the Worcester Police Department is no different than most public bodies in the Commonwealth and as such is bound to adhere to Massachusetts Public Records law and data retention guidelines.
I ask that you immediately restore my letter to you and Worcester City Councilors to the WPD Facebook page, that other posts made by community residents be immediately restored as well, and that the community be reassured that future disregard for open community discourse, transparency and public records management will not reoccur.
WBUR’s David Boeri has some followup on the case of a Worcester teen who confessed to killing her baby, then was set free when the judge found the confession was coerced.
Among other things, Boeri covers Chief Gemme’s recent, ellipses-filled social media feuds, and the chief’s unwillingness to sit down for an interview. I’m left wondering what questions Boeri wants answered—presumably some clarification on what is OK and not OK in interrogations, but I’m just guessing.
Not a lot new here for people who’ve been following this, though I did enjoy this quote from City Councilor Rushton:
“When you use the words like ‘cognitive bias,’ you’re indicating that you believe that a judge has a mental disorder,” Rushton said, “really puts a chilling effect, I believe, and it shows a lack of professionalism.”