LAWRENCE — When Lawrence police Chief John Romero stopped by Chester Street last night, a crowd of grateful neighbors gave him a farewell send-off that few public officials ever get.
He got rained on by colored confetti. A disc jockey announced his arrival to a chorus of deafening cheers. Members of the Sacred Heart Neighborhood Association presented him with a large white pan cake donated by Tripoli Bakery while a large banner waved from the front of a house proclaiming, “Thank you Chief Romero for all you have done for our neighborhood association.”
But that was just one of 10 stops the chief made as part of a 12-mile, two and a half hour tour throughout the city. Neighborhood groups made National Night Out — the chief’s 15th and last in Lawrence – one to remember for Romero, who retires on Sept. 3.
“I am so overwhelmed,” the chief told residents as he cut the cake.
“I should be thanking you for letting me be your police chief for 15 years,” Romero said.
The chief said the greeting was similar to what he received at other stops along the way.
“There must have been hundreds of hugs and handshakes. It was very emotional for me,” said Romero, 63, who has been chief for nearly 15 years.
“People of all ages and different generations came up to me — little kids, teenagers, their parents and grandparents. It really gave meaning to what we did here. The people of the city have really touched my life. So, now, I can see we touched each others’ lives. This was a special night that gave me a chance to say ‘good-bye,’” the chief said.
Lifelong Lawrence resident Brenda Rozzi, 63, president of the Sacred Heart Neighborhood Association, called Romero the “most approachable” police chief she’s ever known.
“When he comes to neighborhood association meetings, he always let’s us know what’s going on,” Rozzi said.