Bergamine Sworn In as Fayetteville Top Cop
Posted April 19, 2007 6:04 p.m. EDT
Fayetteville, N.C. — It was standing room only Thursday as North Carolina's sixth-largest city swore in its new police chief.
Sheriffs, judges and police chiefs from around the area crowded into the Fayetteville City Hall for the ceremony at which Chief Tom Bergamine, who is not much for pomp and circumstance, swore to keep doing his utmost for Fayetteville.
Bergamine squirmed in his seat as a judge bragged about him. The city had launched a nationwide search for a new chief, but in the end it went with a man it's known for three decades.
He is thought of as a hometown fellow — even if he speaks with a different accent.
The new chief hails from the Bronx, “New Yawk” — birthplace of hip-hop, home of Yankee Stadium. He looks like a tough guy — bald head, his streets-of-New York accent.
When Bergamine was named Fayetteville police chief last week, though, his tough-guy veneer melted. Being chosen was, he said Thursday, a "pretty overwhelming, humbling experience."
"I'm gonna work my hardest not to let anybody down,” he said as he tried to keep his composure, “and give it my best shot."
A week later, he stood in the same room and delivered flowers to his wife, Debbie. A Who's Who list of law officers looked on, including his predecessor, Tom McCarthy, who is now chief in Chapel Hill.
He placed his hand on the Bible and recited the familiar words of an Oath of office: “I, Tom Bergamine, do solemnly swear…."
Bergamine never saw this day coming 29 years ago when he became a patrol officer for Fayetteville police. He worked his way through the ranks, making sergeant, lieutenant and finally, assistant chief.
When he looks across his department now, he said, he sees youth and mentoring opportunities.
"We got a lot of young officers we gotta get trained up," the new chief said.
He tells his officers to talk with residents, ask about their concerns— and return phone calls.
"If I don't return somebody's phone call, it's because there was miscommunication: I didn't get it or it was the wrong number. This is one of my beliefs," Bergamine said.
"You stay in contact with the citizens because, ultimately, the citizens are the folks we work for."
Bergamine is a devout believer in community policing and getting citizens involved, and he works hard at it. People have often called him the Energizer Bunny because of his energy and work ethic.
He says, however, that he'll pace himself and live by the words of his predecessor: Police work is a marathon, not a sprint.