Worcester police recruits graduate, are laid off

Cadets victims of fiscal woes

By Scott J. Croteau
Worcester Telegram &Amp; Gazette / February 26, 2009
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WORCESTER - William D. Dowd will have to wait to continue his family's legacy.

The 24-year-old would have been the sixth Dowd brother to join the Worcester Police Department's roster, but that will have to wait as tight fiscal times leave Dowd and 31 other police recruits without a job.

Wearing neatly pressed dress uniforms, the recruits graduated from the Police Department's academy yesterday at Worcester Technical High School. The ceremony ended with each being pinned with a freshly minted badge. Those badges must be turned in tomorrow though, as each is officially laid off.

"I'll hopefully get on sooner than later," Dowd said. "I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I wanted to do this ever since I was a little kid, ever since I saw my dad going into work."

Family and friends snapped pictures and gathered to celebrate the recruits' achievements after spending 25 weeks in training, enduring hours of classroom instruction and weapons training.

There was a quiet feeling of frustration among the celebration - frustration with the recruits left without a job and with the economic times hitting the entire country.

City Manager Michael V. O'Brien received a copy of the invitation yesterday from "friends and family of the recruits." It stated, "IF YOU CAN'T SUPPORT THESE WONDERFUL WOMEN AND MEN WHO HAVE GIVEN UP SO MUCH AND WORKED SO HARD, YOU ARE NOT WANTED AT THIS CEREMONY . . . SHAME ON ALL OF YOU."

Police Chief Gary J. Gemme, noticeably upset with the letter, supported the manager. He said without O'Brien, the class would not have been brought in at all. He said a year ago he expressed concern about bringing in a class during tight fiscal budgets and opposed it.

"If the manager listened to me these recruits would not have a law enforcement career," Gemme said in his opening remarks. "Rather than the manager not being welcome today, I think everybody in this room owes the manager a round of applause for having the courage to bring on this class."

Members of the class, which included the children of several retired and current police officers, had a full celebration. The recruits wanted the ceremony and knew each would have to pay $1,000 for their dress uniforms.

The recruits will now wait for a call from Worcester or another department if a job opens up. They will be placed on a 10-year rehire list with the city and on the state's Civil Service list.

The loss of the 32 recruits has forced the Police Department to shut down the Central District substation to fill vacancies in the patrol division. The recruits were slated to fill those vacancies.

Gemme said the best-case scenario is that the recruits are laid off only for a short time. In the meantime, the department continues to respond to calls for service and address violent crime and quality-of-life issues.

O'Brien told the class he can't imagine how they feel.

"I am sure it is a mix of frustration, disappointment, anger, and anxiety," he said. "You have more than proven yourselves. Now it is our challenge to rise to the occasion and make your desire to serve a reality."

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