FITCHBURG — The hot button subject of police reform is at the core of a recently published book by a former police chief, who culled from over three decades of law enforcement experience to offer his perspective on the issue.
Former Fitchburg and Gardner Police Chief Edward Cronin said he was inspired to pen “Just Policing: My Journey to Police Reform” after seeing the global unrest that followed the murder of George Floyd, a Black civilian, at the hands of Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer.
“I, like many people, was taken back by all the pushback and violence that resulted from incidents related to the Black Lives Matter movement,” Cronin said. “I saw in this an opportunity to tell my story and offer how policing can be done differently and more effectively in the future.”
Cronin reached out to Dayna Kendall, who serves as the Restorative Justice Interventionist in the Ayer Shirley Regional School District, to co-author the book published in June.
He said it is “part memoir and a story of all my career experience and my views about police reform today, especially in light of all the controversy that’s been going on over the last two years.”
Cronin served as police chief in Fitchburg for five years, from 2002 to 2007, and in addition to his three years as chief in Gardner has nearly a decade of extensive international experience working with the U.S. Department of State.
One of seven siblings, he grew up in Fitchburg and graduated from the high school in 1971, where he has lived for most of his life — except when living overseas while working internationally. In total, his career of public service spans 35 years.
Cronin said his time in law enforcement in the city is an especially integral part of the detailed book — that according to the description — offers possibilities and solutions to fix the broken criminal justice system.
It is a story of the police empowering communities to overcome issues from deep systemic racism to international crime and corruption, and to do so in a way that has brought about tremendous healing and growth to all places and locations that he has worked.
“One direct example is told by how Fitchburg once had a murder rate higher than Boston and a minority dropout rate of over 40% at our high school, and what was done during that time to leverage long term sustainable change that through the efforts of many have resulted today in Fitchburg experiencing one murder last year and a dropout rate of 8% for minorities,” Cronin said. “I believe there is a great story of Fitchburg’s success that needs to be shared with other communities.”
He said one aspect of the work they did in the city while he served as chief was to “stop doing things the same old way over and over again and getting failed results.”
“Enforcement was increased dramatically but there was no drop in crime,” he recalled. “It wasn’t until we began to build relationships between the police and the minority community did the trust evolve that led to the results we are seeing today.”
The book, which is available on Amazon and other platforms in paperback and ebook formats, has been well received in the greater community and beyond as well as among fellow law enforcement officials.
Cronin said the most common feedback he hears is “I could not put it down,” and a recent review written by former two-time Police Commissioner of the New York City Police Department and the former Los Angeles Chief of Police William Bratton, whom Cronin believes is “the most respected and accomplished law enforcement executive and officer in the country,” solidifies the impact the book is capable of making.
Bratton wrote he was reminded of a quote from the late NYPD First Deputy Commissioner John Timoney while reading the book: “Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it, and those who know policing know we don’t study history.”
“Ed Cronin clearly knows police history, both good and bad, the highs and lows and recognizes that it is consistently evolving and reforming; reform that he has consistently throughout his career sought to inform, improve and change. Now with his thoughtful new book he continues on that quest,” Bratton wrote.
“Those who care about policing will recognize the police professions importance to our Democratic society and form of government,” Bratton continued. “This book is a valuable addition and contribution to the efforts to always seek to improve it. Like myself, Ed Cronin is a Peelian, an admirer of Sir Robert Peel, whose Nine Principles of Policing provided the platform in 1829 upon which he built the London Metropolitan Police Service.”
Bratton also added those principles are “even more appropriate and applicable today in the 21st Century. This book is another plank in the platform and a valuable addition to the continuing effort to improve and reform policing in a democracy.”
Cronin said the biggest takeaway he hopes readers will gather from the book is that he “would like people to understand that the police are just a direct mirror of society, that police officers are honorable and trustworthy and can use their power to make positive change to a more inclusive and democratic society.”
Cronin and Kendall are already discussing plans for another book and will be holding a book signing from noon to 4 p.m., Saturday, at Barnes & Noble in Leominster.
For more information on their combined efforts visit justpolicing.org.