By Keith Eddings
---- — LAWRENCE — During two decades in New York City Police Department, John Romero led the department’s efforts to wipe out graffiti and rose in the ranks from transit police trainee to commander of a precinct in one of the city’s most troubled neighborhoods.
Then he moved to Lawrence and his career took off, Romero told a grateful City Council on Monday as he picked up two proclamations recognizing his 15 years as the city’s police chief on the eve of his retirement on Sept. 1.
“While I love New York City, nothing matches my 15 years in Lawrence,” Romero told the councilors. “I hope I left the city and the department better than I found it.”
The council’s proclamation highlights Romero’s 34 year career in the two police departments. In Lawrence, it credits him with creating special task forces to combat domestic violence, gangs and vehicle insurance fraud, which by 2008 had reduced crime to 40-year lows.
“When Mayor (Patricia) Dowling hired Chief Romero, the department was in disarray,” said Councilor Daniel Rivera, who at the time was a special assistant to Dowling and served on the search committee that brought Romero to Lawrence.
“We had high hopes the new chief would be able to recognize that and help us fight crime in a monumental way. Because there was so much crime, I’m not sure anyone thought it was achievable. But he reorganized the men and women of the department and they went out and did just that.”