by 4Squares Residential Group in Partnership with Judi 411
Now that the new Medford Police Station stands tall and proud in Medford Square, the 4Squares Team felt it only appropriate to interview Medford’s Favorite Officer: Captain Barry Clemente of the Medford Police Department.
Best known as The Original Voice of the city’s Reverse-911 system, Captain Barry’s “informational messages” seemed to disappear during the early pandemic. But fear not! Captain Barry is alive and well and was happy to talk with us about what he loves most about living life in Medford.
You've been an icon in the community for a very long time, whether you realize it or not. Did you grow up in Medford? What are some of your memories of growing up here?
Oh yes, my Medford roots run deep. My wife is also a Medford girl. I was born in 1961 and lived on Valley Street, and later my family moved up to North Medford by Carr Park. When I was a kid, my mom and I used to walk to the end of Fulton Street to Buttrick's Ice Cream. Do you know where Monterosa Condos are, across from the Mobil Gas Station? That was Buttrick's, and they had the best ice cream ever. I would get excited to go there because Buttrick's was a huge treat. I was sad when they took it down. I don't remember the year because it was so long ago. But I'm sure some older people in the community will remember Buttrick's, especially those in North Medford.
Of course, everyone knows Jim's Market and their famous B-Boy sandwiches, but there was also a store in North Medford called Tino's, which was across from People’s Market. And People’s Market was actually a clothing store. And naturally, I hung out at Carr Park. I used to hang with friends and play baseball, and everybody knew everybody. It was a great neighborhood to grow up in.
Another favorite memory is hopping on the big, maroon-colored Hudson Bus from North Medford to ride into Medford Square. The Square was booming then! We had Gilchrist's, Woolworth's, First National, a movie theatre, and a bowling alley. We would spend the whole day down in the Square. That's what we did for fun. We'd go to the movie theater for 25-cent double features with friends. I love seeing old pictures from that time, especially vintage cars. Lots of fun memories!
What inspired you to become a Medford police officer?
I'm not one of those guys who will tell you I wanted to be a police officer since birth. I didn't know what I wanted to do. After college, I studied to become a pilot, and I was flying airplanes for a while to obtain my license. Then I worked for Chase Manhattan in New York in 1983-1984, writing programs to convert foreign currency -- Japanese Yen, Italian Lira, Danish Krone, etc. to U.S. dollars. This shows how old this was. I had a room with no view. I didn’t envision doing this for my entire career.
Then the opportunity to take the Civil Service Exam came about. Back then, everybody took the exam every time it was available. I took it for the sake of having another possible option. I did well enough on one exam, and I decided to try it. So off I went to the Police Academy, and the rest is history. I guess I'm a late bloomer. I didn't know what I wanted to do until I actually got into it, and I liked it. I grew up here. I knew everybody. I knew the streets and neighborhoods, and I took a liking to it. I like the people I work with, and I like doing the things I do, and I just stuck with it. And here I am, 38 years later, and I continue to really enjoy it. It turned out to be a great job, and I can't imagine doing anything else.
What's been the most rewarding aspect of serving as a Medford Police officer?
I'd have to say the department's response during COVID impressed me the most. The men and women down here worked constantly. I was amazed by how officers and personnel approached the pandemic. They went above and beyond, without missing a beat, despite the unknowns out there.
They weren't in a position where they could stay home or work from home, or where we would close down. Officers were out in the field all the time, responding to calls and at the same time they were trying to take care of their own families. They came in and continued to help the community. They didn't take vacation time or other time off. They were truly amazing. I'm always been proud of them, but the way they stepped it up during the pandemic made me the proudest I've ever been.
That pride extends to the Fire Department and to the Armstrong Ambulance as well. They were always working. Chief Buckley, Captain Faller, and Lt. Casey made sure that everyone had the protective equipment that was needed such as masks, disinfectant, goggles, gloves etc. -- We had everything we needed and the protocols in place to keep our officers as safe as possible.
And on top of all the day-to-day, Medford now also has a new police station. Tell me more about that development.
Chief Buckley took the lead on that project along with Capt. Faller, Lt. Colorusso and Officer Diblasi. We hit some speed bumps and roadblocks along the way, but they managed to make the transition to the new building a success. The building is amazing.
Plus, we implemented a new Reverse-911 system for public safety notifications. Mayor Lungo-Koehn focuses on COVID updates, and Jackie Piques, the City's Communications Director, informs the community about city matters. I continue to make notifications regarding police matters.
As a city, we all work very well together. I have enjoyed my time working in Medford and have met a lot of great people, most notably Wallace Kountze, who was instrumental in bringing Reverse 911 to Medford in 2000. Wally was the City's 911 Project Manager, When I became Captain in 1999, he helped me orchestrate the enormous task of getting a roof on the police station and the new 911 Center. He took me around, showed me what to do and how to do it, from working with the Procurement Office at City Hall, to how to go through bids, obtain permits, you name it. When Wally spoke, everyone listened, and he made things happen. And over the years, we collaborated on several projects and developed a great working relationship and a friendship.
Wally also helped bring the File of Life to Medford, which are the red magnetic refrigerator cards that are still used today. If first responders enter a home, all pertinent information about medications, health conditions, and emergency contact numbers are in plain sight which are crucial in a life-threatening situation. Wally saw the need for those cards. Together, we went out into the community to churches, elderly homes, and residential areas where there was a large senior population to ensure citizens had these cards. Wally would even help the Seniors fill them out. Wally was exceptional, and I am grateful to have known him.
We talked a little bit earlier about your celebrity status as the Voice of Reverse 911, but you've enjoyed some on-screen fame as well.
Some of the police station scenes in the television series "City on a Hill" were filmed at the old station. Initially, the producers wanted to film in Charlestown, but all the old buildings were converted to condos. The crew walked into our station and fell in love with its design and the old, gritty feel of the late '80s, early '90's era. In one of the early episodes, you'll see me buzz Kevin Bacon into the station. I didn't have a speaking role, but I got to meet Kevin Bacon, who is a really nice guy.
Several other movies have been filmed in Medford as well. The Loconte Rink was used to film "Gone, Baby, Gone," The crew constructed triple-decker replicas in the rink where some of the filming was done. "American Hustle" was filmed up on Doonan Street in North Medford, and it was great to watch the neighborhood turn back the clock with all the vintage cars parked on the street during filming. There's talk that The Boston Strangler movie will be filmed in Medford, but no final verdict on that yet. But it's always exciting to see Medford on film. We've become a very hot area for filming.
What, in your view, makes Medford a great place to live? What would you tell someone who is considering a move to Medford?
Well for starters, we have a great police department! I think it's a great place to raise your kids, and the school systems are sound. There are plenty of great restaurants. Young professionals considering Medford can live here, and they're minutes away from Boston and major highways and thoroughfares that connect in all directions. The Green Line Extension and Tufts University are right here in our backyard. What we have here is impressive. It's a safe area, and we have a team of ambitious and energetic officers coming onto the job. I consider moving to Medford an investment for years to come and a great placed to raise a family.
Photo Credits: Captain Barry Clemente and our own Judi 411, Captain Barry and another celebrity sighting, Kevin Bacon. Photos courtesy of Captain Barry and Judi Harrington McLaughlin. Medford Police Station and K-9 courtesy of Medford Police Department.