The latest tweet:
The chief is not the first person to hide assholery behind First Amendment rights.
And goodness knows I’ve defended plenty of assholes in their pursuit of those rights.
We’ve got a chief who thinks he can say whatever he wants, whenever he wants, about whomever he wants, knowing full well that no one will ever call him on it — and that, in fact, many of our elected officials will praise him for it.
Now he’s setting things up so that if he’s chastised for behaving like an eighth grader who just found a group of seventh graders at his favorite lunch table, he’ll just say that he has First Amendment rights to say whatever he wants.
He’ll probably even argue that a Twitter account that identifies him as the “Police Chief Worcester Police Department” is his private account for his personal thoughts.
At this point, I do not expect many folks on the City Council to publicly affirm that when he speaks in an official capacity, he’s representing the city (and not just himself) and that his behavior is unacceptable. After all, it seems as if the motto of most people on the Council is:
I have now heard the chief speak on multiple occasions about the need for more police officers. And we’ve heard various elected officials and talk show hosts sympathize with his plight.
(Color me cynical, but perhaps we should be asking why we’re paying for a certain individual to be on disability pay when he is no longer allowed to handle a firearm before we start barking up the new recruit class tree.)
There is a way to maintain a safe city while still remaining professional at all times.
There is a way to do community policing without an “us-versus-them” mentality that increasingly puts more and more people in the “them” category.
I think the public is an integral part of public safety.
The Chief says he does as well, but he’s made it a point to blame them for not attending meetings or calling in tips. At last night’s King Street-Shepard Street crimewatch meeting, he said, “I think there should be 200 people in this room right now after a shooting.”
Perhaps if the meeting had been posted on the WPD’s Facebook or Twitter feeds, more people would have shown up. Rather than step up the publicity for such a meeting, we lump those who didn’t attend in the “them” category.
On Jordan Levy last night, we were told that someone who had been shot was not identifying the shooter, and that folks in that situation would be facing felony obstruction charges. Rather than talk about ways in which the police protect those who identify criminals, we only know that those who do not comply will be in the “them” category until further notice.
Whether the chief likes it or not, he’s a role model for the city at large, and — for many of us — he is the public face of the WPD.
The position of police chief comes with great privilege and also comes with great responsibility.
One cannot choose to have one without the other.
It is, I imagine, a great privilege to be the head of an organization with so many people committed to public safety and service. It’s a great privilege to know that you can bring people who have done horrible things to justice, and that you can help the public on a daily basis.
The responsibilities are just as important. Part of the responsibility is public education. Part of the responsibility is to protect those you might disagree with (as long as they’re not criminals). Part of the responsibility is to recognize that your work makes you a public figure with obligations to something greater than your own ego.
If I sound a little preachy, it’s because we’ve had too little preaching and too much ass-kissing.
When a high-ranking official plays these kinds of games, it reflects poorly on his employees and it reflects poorly on his employers — the residents of the city of Worcester.
So the question is not just why Chief Gemme thinks so poorly of the WPD that he would allow his bad behavior to represent them, but why the City Council thinks so poorly of the people of Worcester that they would allow his bad behavior to represent us.