WATERTOWN — Chief of Police John Gavallas was on an episode of The Town Times’ Talk of the Town to discuss his 50 years as a police officer and the future of the police department.
Chief Gavallas first became a police officer in August 1969. In those days the police department was located in the basement of the old Town Hall.
“I remember like it was yesterday,” Chief Gavallas recalled, as he described when he walked into the two-room department headquarters that year.
He was handed an application and was told to bring it in the next day, thus starting his career to become a police officer.
He spoke about the changes that the department has gone through over the decades.
“I think one of the biggest changes in law enforcement is community-oriented policing,” he said.
He talked about how there was a push in the 1990s by then President Bill Clinton to reform the country’s police departments. There were federal grants to create more police and community programs.
Now, almost 30 years later, the Watertown Police Department has continued to expand its community outreach.
Examples of this include the recent Coffee With a Cop event that took place in August at the local Starbucks.
Another example will be on Friday, October 4 when the department will host its annual charity golf tournament to benefit the Harold Leever Cancer Center.
“Technology was another great advantage to us,” said Chief Gavallas, explaining all the advancement that department has received over the years.
Some of the technology changes are license plate readers, body cameras and electric tasers.
He talked about how those advancements have made the job easier and safer for both officers and citizens.
During the interview, Chief Gavallas talked about programs that the department has implemented.
The department is taking applications for its Citizen Police Academy Program. The program will allow locals to get an in-depth look at the department and responsibilities of a regular officer.
As to the future of the department, Chief Gavallas expresses interest in expanding the department’s headquarters.
The department has been at its current location at 195 French St. for almost 40 years.
“Unfortunately, we’ve outgrown our building,” he said.
He hopes to begin a dialogue with the Town Council and the community to discuss a new location or expansion for the police department.
He said that he plans to go before the Town Council in October to propose the creation of a study to see what the best course of action would be.
Over the past 50 years, Chief Gavallas has seen the police department grow and evolve into the organization it is today.
Today the department continues to come up with new ways to reach out to the community and keep residents safe.
“We care about the community,” said Chief Gavallas near the end of his interview.
Those interested in the full interview may view the episode at the Prime Publisher’s Vimeo account at https://vimeo.com/user11774408.