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York Area Regional Police Chief Tom Gross retiring after 42 years

Written by Ted Czeck/York Daily Record | Nov 29, 2015 10:45 AM
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York Area Regional Police Chief Tom Gross is retiring in December. Here, he poses with a bobblehead doll made to look like him, given to the chief by an officer.(Photo: Kate Penn, York Daily Record)

(Undated) -- Among the Green Lantern, Napoleon Dynamite and Geico caveman bobbleheads on the cabinets across from Tom Gross' office, there sits one of him.

"I don't think my hair's quite that gray; it might be thinner," he said recently with a laugh.

Over the years, people found out about the growing collection and started sending them in, some anonymously.

"It kind of happened on its own," he said. "It kind of grew to the point that there's one of me."

Gross, 64, of York Township, has had some time to grow the collection -- he's been at the helm of the York Area Regional Police Department since its formation in 2000. Prior to that, he spent 22 years with York City Police, rising to the rank of captain.

Gross said recently he's retiring, closing out a 42-plus-year career in policing, with his last day being Dec. 11.

The longtime chief sat down for a question-and-answer session:

Q: Why are you retiring? What will you do post-retirement?

A: "No one single reason, just been thinking about it for probably six months or more. Had some factors come together that made this seem like the right time," he said.

As far as what he will do after, Gross said he has a new camera and enjoys taking photos of his four grandchildren, who range in age from 3 months to 8 years.

Gross said he will continue to teach at HACC's Municipal Police Academy and also will continue to conduct assessments and consulting for the Pennsylvania Police Accreditation Commission.

"I'm looking at a couple other opportunities," he said.

Q: What motivated you to become a police officer?

A: "I've always felt in a way, the riots of 1969," influenced him, he said. "I grew up in the city, went to York High. It really heightened an awareness in me to be involved in some kind of public safety.

Gross graduated from Penn State's main campus in 1973, and got his first taste of policing as a student officer. He also worked as a seasonal officer in Wildwood, NJ., before he was hired by the York City Police Department.

Q: Talk about the formation of York Area Regional Police, and how were you able to satisfy so many interests -- both politicians and citizens -- over the years?

A: "It was definitely the second-largest consolidation (in York County); that was a big assignment," he said. "There were a lot of competing interests, merging everybody into the same organization. It was a long nine months, but I consider it to be one of my best accomplishments."

"There's no question that politics are involved in policing, you just can't divorce the two," he said. "I've always considered myself to be a diplomat (and) really, when you look at this area, it's kind of one community."

Q: What do you think of the criticism leveled against police, in light of Ferguson and other recent incidents?

A: "In the late '60s and early '70s, there was a lot of demonization of police," he said.

Gross said this time, the criticism is much more harsh, but that policing has improved over the decades.

"The accountability for use-of-force, the training we receive and the relationship with the community is all better," he said.

Gross said he sees the condemnation as an "opportunity for improvement."

Q: Will you miss policing?

A: "There's definitely mixed feelings," he said. "I like to be around younger officers. I still like it when we get the bad guys, but I definitely look forward to not having to worry about getting a call that someone got hurt or killed."

On Nov. 24, Gross attended the HACC academy graduation, where York Area Regional's latest officer, Jeremy Fatland, graduated.

"That's one of my best days, seeing young officers just ready to go out and do the right things for the right reasons and are excited about it," he said.

 

Notable case

Chief Tom Gross said he is still haunted by the August 2013 death of 7-month-old Hamza Ali, who Upper Darby Township Police say was killed by Windsor Township resident Ummad Rushdi

Police say that Rushdi told girlfriend Zainab Gaal -- the baby's mother -- that he planned to take the infant to her mother's home, but, "If not, I will throw him off a bridge before I get there," court documents state.

York Area Regional Police helped arrest Rushdi and also searched for Hamza's body

"We never found that body," Gross said, adding that from time to time, he asks detectives, "Is there anything we can do? Have you heard anything?"

Rushdi is charged with first-, second- and third-degree murder, kidnapping and abuse of a corpse. His case has yet to go to trial.

 


This article comes to us through a partnership between York Daily Record and WITF.

 

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