WORCESTER, MA – Police Chief Gary J. Gemme closed his Twitter account today, ending an endeavor that had caused some headache and controversy since it began.
“After some consideration, I deactivated my personal Twitter account because I believe it is in the best interest of the Police Department and the city of Worcester,” the chief said in an interview this morning with the Telegram & Gazette.
The chief put out his final tweet early today, stating, “Today I am voluntarily shutting down my personal Twitter account and will no longer offer my personal or political perspective.”
The tweet before that predicted the demise of a local online news outlet. The tweet referred to a story on that website that questioned the financial wisdom of adding a new class of police recruits.
Since he began using the social media outlet Twitter on Nov. 24, 2009, the chief has posted comments about local media, city councilors and a local judge.
“None of those tweets violated any policies,” Chief Gemme said. “It was a personal account, and even if it was a city account, no one has ever accused me of violating the city policy.”
City Manager Michael V. O’Brien said he was told what the chief would last post on Twitter.
“I’ve issued for all employees a social media policy, and as it pertains to this particular issue, it’s a matter of personnel, and I can’t comment any further,” Mr. O’Brien said.
Chief Gemme said he understands his role as chief does not allow for personal views but believes what he wrote on Twitter were his personal views as a resident of the city. His Twitter profile read, “Police Chief Worcester, MA, offering some off-duty perspective.” His account name was 911chief, and the symbol associated with it was a police badge.
Rather than argue about the nature of his tweets, Chief Gemme said he felt it was in the community’s best interest to deactivate the account and refrain from discussing his personal views, rather than having his tweets rehashed in the media.
Councilor-at-Large Frederick C. Rushton drew his own conclusions about the chief’s actions. “It seems we are close to having the cosmic tumblers click into place. Reading the tea leaves, it seems the manager disciplined the chief, making the chief accountable. For the last tumbler to click into place, the chief needs to appreciate his public comments were not suitable for someone holding the honor of being the police chief,” he said.
Councilor-at-Large Konstantina B. Lukes, who has been critical of the chief’s tweeting, said this afternoon that she was not aware Chief Gemme had closed his Twitter account. When told of his explanation, Ms. Lukes said, “He’s right. It should have been closed much sooner.”
Asked whether she felt the chief violated the city’s social media policy, the councilor said, “I prefer not to answer that, because I don’t have enough facts.”
The chief had 319 followers on Twitter and had sent 168 tweets.
Messages concerning the work of the Police Department will still be released on the department’s Facebook and Twitter pages. The chief said he will still make himself available to the media for comment on police issues.