BROCKTON - A solemn and auspicious ceremony in Brockton’s ornate City Council chamber was not without a few laughs as the city’s newest police chief was sworn into office last week.
“My first task as police chief is to give Bill Conlon the rest of the day off,’’ said Emanuel Gomes, a police captain who is taking over for Conlon following his retirement after 26 years.
With his wife, daughter, and Mayor Linda Balzotti by his side, and cheered on by scores of friends, city officials, and fellow police officers, Gomes promised to protect the residents of Brockton as he was formally named the department’s interim chief.
Then he called for a round of applause for his predecessor, and praised the officers filling the rows of seats and lining the walls of the chamber, who he said are really the ones responsible for the day-to-day operation of the busy city department.
“It’s not a one-man show,’’ Gomes said.
By his own account, Gomes’s appointment is the pinnacle of a personal American dream.
“I’m an immigrant,’’ said the 49-year-old native of Portugal, who arrived with his family in Brockton’s Campello neighborhood when he was 8. Gomes said he dreamed, as he attended city schools, of becoming a police officer, but not just with any department.
“I wanted to be a Brockton police officer,’’ he said in an interview following Friday’s ceremony, before he, family, and friends left for George’s Café on Belmont Street for a celebratory lunch.
What could stand in Gomes’s way of the police chief’s job permanently, though, is the city’s residency requirement for municipal employees. Although Gomes grew up in Brockton and spent much of his life there, he now lives in Bridgewater.
As he considered the residency situation, Gomes said the requirement is a concern, but at the moment his immediate focus is to lead the department to the best of his ability. That is what he plans to do, he said.
Down the road, city officials will make a decision, and whatever it is, he will abide by it, he said.
City officials say a local ordinance requires employees to live in Brockton unless they can prove hardship, have unique qualifications, or can prove some other reason why they must live outside the city.
But there is a state law that says employment contracts for police and fire chiefs aren’t bound by local rules, said Thomas Brophy, City Council president.
He said Balzotti doesn’t have to bring Gomes’s contract before the City Council, and if she does, she can also ask for a waiver of the residency requirement. “I can’t speak for the council, but I would support granting an exemption if he came before us,’’ he said.
Brophy also praised the interim chief, who he said has proved his capabilities.
A 1981 graduate of Brockton High School, Gomes began his career in Brockton as a patrolman in 1986 and rose through the ranks until he made captain in 2002. Since then, he has overseen the department in the chief’s absence.
Gomes earned an associate’s degree in criminal justice from Massasoit Community College in Brockton and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Roger Williams University in Rhode Island.
“A lot of very good things are going on in the Brockton Police Department, and we want to continue being a full-service police department,’’ he said Friday. “I intend to continue the good things Chief Conlon has put in place and maintain those standards.’’
Balzotti praised Gomes as a candidate with the qualities needed to be a good chief. She said she believes he is the best person for the job.
“The position of police chief is one of the most, if not the most, important jobs in the city,’’ she said. “He has the experience and knowledge to continue the successful work being done by the Brockton Police Department.’’
Gomes’s joy at the promotion was obvious as he worked the council chamber before he was sworn in.
He was showered with congratulations, kisses, and claps on the back from friends and officials, and shook a sea of hands in the rank and file before City Clerk Anthony Zeoli arrived.
“I figured, with all these years you’ve served on the police force, what’s another 15 minutes?’’ Zeoli quipped as he took his place behind the podium.
In brief remarks, Gomes expressed his appreciation to Balzotti and to Conlon and said he would work his hardest for the city.
Later, as the crowd filtered out, Conlon said it was a strange feeling, but also a good one, to retire, and he said he felt confident he was leaving the city in good hands with Gomes.
“He will do a fantastic job,’’ he said.
For the immediate future, Conlon said, he plans to spend a week or so in Florida.
“And when I get back?’’ he said. “I plan to look for meaningful employment.’’Michele Morgan Bolton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.