By Sue Ellen Woodcock
Lt. Frank Scarpa wishes he could serve a few more years with the Winthrop Police Department but state law mandates that he retire at the age of 65.
Scarpa retires officially after Sunday from the Winthrop Police Department after 40 years on the force. He started as a reserve officer in July 1977 patrolling Point Shirley. Within months he was evacuating people with the National Guard during the Blizzard of ’78.
“I don’t want to retire but I have to,” Scarpa said, adding that he hopes to stay involved doing a detail or two around town.
Scarpa was drawn to law enforcement on the advice of his ex-father-in-law who was a Metropolitan Police Officer.
“He suggested I look into it because it was an honorable position with a pension,” Scarpa said.
Scarpa was president of his police academy class where he ranked number one. He became a patrolman where he served for nine years. He was promoted to sergeant in 1988 and became a lieutenant. Scarpa attended executive police programs and served as the executive officer to the police chief and filled in when the chief was not in town. He also served as an officer in the Crime Prevention Police Officer Association in Massachusetts. Scarpa also taught criminal justice training council.
He was also was awarded the state Hanna Award for bravery and lifesaving and was a recipient of the George Washington medal from the Freedom Foundation.
Scarpa was the lead investigator in the William Fitzmeyer case. Fitzmeyer was convicted of murdering a patient at Winthrop Hospital in 1989.
Scarpa became a certified crime prevention officer and originated the community policing program in Winthrop.
Through his work Scarpa saw the community obtain the title of “Safest Community in the Country” according to Family Circle Magazine.
Then in the early 1980’s property values in Winthrop skyrocketed and the population grew. Today Winthrop holds its own.
“These can be troubling times and Winthrop holds it own,” Scarpa said. “Policing now is so much different. My goal was to make Winthrop as safe as I could.”
Scarpa has over 1,000 arrests to his name, something that may be lower today because some laws now require a summons instead of an arrest.
In the 1990s, Scarpa got the town involved with National Night Out, a community-police awareness raising event. He even met former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore while on detail at Logan Airport.
One of Scarpa’s favorite job was starting the Police Explorers Post 99 in Winthrop, a place for young people to learn about police work and in many instances serving as a stepping stone to law enforcement. Helping along the way has been Det. Sgt. Steve Rogers. The very first time the post competed in a national contest it won first place for crime scene investigation.
“Together we formed the Police Explorers,” Scarpa said. “I encourage young people to look big and apply to state a federal programs. Twenty-five young people from the program are now in law enforcement.”
A native of East Boston, Scarpa is married to Winthrop native Jeannie Belcher and has three children and two grandchildren.
“I’ve always had personal and organizational pride in the police department,’ Scarpa said.