For nearly four decades serving the Commonwealth as a police officer, Chief Richard Bongiorno will be calling it a career.
When Bongiorno turns 65 in May, he is required by state law to retire.
Finding the Right Person for the Job
Bongiorno was among a small selection committee tasked with finding a qualified candidate within the department to fill the void he'll ultimately be leaving upon his retirement after 39 years in the policing business.
Rather than doing an external search, the town opted to conduct an internal hiring process to find the next police chief, according to Bongiorno. And, after conducting several interviews, the committee tabbed Lt. Jim McIntyre as the "chief designee" who'll likely be sworn in by the board of selectmen in late May or early June.
"I think it’s a great opportunity," McIntyre said. "I’m looking forward to having a long career as chief here."
McIntyre Looks Ahead
McIntyre, who began his career in September of 1996, knows he'll have some big shoes to fill when Bongiorno retires but he's ready for the challenge.
"We’re very fortunate to have a police department with good officers, and it’s going to be nice to bring the department back in touch with the community, be responsive to the community’s needs and make the community proud of the police department," McIntyre said, adding that there will be a learning curve as with any new position. "Even though you may think you know what a position entails you really don’t know what the job is all about until you actually get in there and find out what all the little nuances are that come up that you’re unaware of that you have to be involved with."
High Hopes for New Police Chief
Bongiorno sees a lot of promise in McIntyre as a police chief.
"I think he is a remarkable officer," Bongiorno said. "I think he is very progressive in his thinking. He has some strengths I believe that are stronger than mine. He has some good technological strengths moving us forward in a quicker use of technology. He is very adept at that. He has a good budgeting skill set and when we do our yearly budgets, I weigh heavily on the advice of all the command staff, but more so [his advice.]"
Bongiorno continued, saying McIntyre is "amenable to continuing, upgrading and maintaining our policies and we’re always reviewing them to keep contemporary."
"I believe he’ll also maintain a process that we’ve brought to the Stoneham Police Department, whether it’s internal movement of personnel or hiring personnel or promoting personnel," Bongiorno said. "He knows and understands how to navigate the department very well."
Bongiorno Recalls Transition from Cambridge to Stoneham
While McIntyre moves up in rank within the Stoneham Police force—where he's worked his entire career—Bongiorno will be leaving the post he's held since 2007 after spending more than three decades with the Cambridge Police Department.
"Cambridge (police) obviously is a much larger department and they have many more specialized units, and I certainly supervised many more officers and civilians than we have here in Stoneham, so the transition was coming from a larger department…to a smaller department that acts more as generalists so that was a transition," Bongiorno said, adding that the Stoneham police currently has 36 employees. "In coming to a smaller department, we needed to review our policies and procedures—some of which were quite old at the time—and we’ve tried to update many of our policies and procedures using the standards under Massachusetts Police Accreditation Standards, so every policy we’ve updated and/or brought into new policies were all standardized based on criteria of the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Standards.”
By making changes to policies and procedures, Bongiorno said that brought about "more accountability and control on how we operate."
Bongiorno noted how pleased he is with playing a part in bringing good officers into the fold during his tenure, as well as assisting them in their development.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to hire about 22 percent of our patrol officer staff in part because of retirements, and I’ve been able to promote three patrol officers to sergeant," Bongiorno said. "We’ve also established a process in on our hiring and we do thorough complete background investigations."
Bongiorno has also made sure that higher-ranking officers get specialized training whenever possible.
"I’m very pleased in executive development. I’ve been able to recommend and nominate two sergeants to attend the FBI National Academy, which is an 11-week command executive officer program in Quantico, Virginia," Bongiorno said. "In fact, our chief designee was my first recommendation to send down to Quantico and the FBI National Academy.
"I think that was instrumental in moving him forward professionally to be able to take over. As a head administrator, I think we have an obligation to provide executive development for our supervisors and command officers and I think we’ve done a pretty good job of doing that.”
Bongiorno has also helped the majority of hs female officers get training in specific policing areas.
"I’m very proud that we have two of our three female officers that have had specialized training in sexual assault investigations," said the police chief.
After being chosen from many police chiefs nationwide, Bongiorno was able to attend the National Center for Exploited Children training session in Washington. Securing grant funding for police programs has been vital to the department, he added.
"We developed a very in-depth policy on how we investigate domestic violence and, as a result of that, we were able to acquire grant funding in the amount of $134,000," Bongiorno said. "We were able to hire a domestic violence civilian liaison person and to develop a high-risk team to determine certain domestic violence cases that involve the batterer being recognized as a serious violator, so working with domestic violence and exploited children have been very important to us here."
During his tenure, Bongiorno said he's proud of the dedicated work ethic displayed by his officers.
“We investigated a case here in Stoneham that was a very serious kidnapping and beating of a victim and it was about 10 or 12 years old," Bongiorno said. "And, because of the good police work the detectives did at the time—that was a cold case nobody had been brought to justice until about two years ago—and then there was a break in the case and our detectives were able to bring new evidence to the (Middlesex) District Attorney, who then ultimately was able to get an indictment and conviction of the suspect who served (prison) time.
"That was a good feeling, knowing that our detectives were able to pick up the ball on a cold case and were able to get a successful conclusion and get justice for the victim.”
Shuttering Illegal Operations
In recent years, the department has made great strides by .
"In the last two and a half years we have closed down three massage parlors in our town, and there was a direct link to employees in these massage parlors, as they were all Asian women and everything was turning toward Elvira, N.Y. so we gave all this information to the federal authorities and we’ve cleaned up our massage parlor problem in Stoneham," Bongiorno said. "Because of the dogged work our undercover officers did, we’ve developed a task force to go after them.
"We were recognized for our efforts as a result of that, and I have submitted a lot of information to our legislative delegation and I hope I was somewhat instrumental in having the . Up until last year we didn’t have a specific law on that, but because of our officers and the efforts of our legislators we now have a good solid human trafficking law, which is so much more prominent than people would ever think."
Bongiorno, who expressed his appreciation working with the selectmen and town administrators, plans to pursue part-time teaching opportunities at local colleges or perhaps work for the federal government to do pre-employment background investigations into prospective federal employees.
"I’ve done a lot of teaching both at private colleges and the Massachusetts Municipal Police Institute," Bongiorno said, adding he has taught courses in constitutional and statute law since 1988. "I’ve taught for many years about constitutional law and other topics, so I might want to do some adjunct faculty teaching at a local college.
"Something that will keep my fingers close to the cookie jar, as I’m not prepared to stop working abruptly, so I’ll have to find something on a part-time basis."
Every Day is a New Day
No matter what Bongiorno does in his next job, he plans to live by the same motto.
"There’s a saying I’ve always told people and it’s not just a rote saying: 'I come to work every day as if it’s my first day coming to work,'" said the police chief. "I still have drive, I still have motivation and I hope that I’ve instilled that in most of our officers and in particular our command officers.”