Investigative Instinct

John Gibbons ’77

By Mary Ellen Lowney

On a lunch break from a day-long meeting involving a major crime in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Detective Lieutenant John Gibbons is decidedly understated about his accomplishments since graduating from American International College three decades ago.

“It has certainly been interesting,” he said with a light chuckle.

What’s more, is that level of intrigue is likely to remain a constant in Gibbons’ life. This summer, he accepted a nomination from the late Senator Edward Kennedy and senior Senator John Kerry to become a permanent U.S. Marshal, a hefty post responsible for protecting the courts and judges and apprehending fugitives, among other duties.

“I planned a sort of progression when I went into the state police, with investigations as my main interest,” he said. “I worked hard to get into investigations early in my career, and I proved that it was my forte.”

John Gibbons ’77

After a 30-year career in Massachusetts law enforcement highlighted by countless awards and commendations and a steady progression through the Massachusetts State Police (MSP) ranks, Gibbons was nominated to assume the post of U.S. Marshal for the District of Massachusetts in late July. President Obama must send the nomination to the Senate Judiciary Committee for confirmation, but historically, a state’s senior senator makes the nomination. Backing Gibbons for the prestigious post was one of Senator Kennedy’s final acts as Senator before his passing less than a month later.

Once appointed, Gibbons will be the first African-American to hold the position, which requires a proven record in criminal justice. Gibbons hails from a family already well-heeled in the law enforcement community; his father served as a police detective and later a detective captain in New Jersey, and his extended family includes several police officers and lawyers. But it’s Gibbons’ track record alone that caught the interest of Senators Kennedy and Kerry.

In a joint statement released earlier this year, Kennedy and Kerry said the position of U.S. marshal requires a proven background in law enforcement “regardless of party affiliation,” and that Gibbons fits that role.

“Detective Lieutenant John Gibbons has the experience, the expertise, and the passion for law enforcement that is critical to protecting the Commonwealth,” the statement said. “His lifelong commitment to public service both as an officer, an instructor, and a community leader is unsurpassed.”

Gibbons began his law enforcement study at AIC before the Criminal Justice Department had even taken root at the college. With aspirations of pursuing a career in law, but unsure if his path would lead to a uniform or a court room, Gibbons first entered AIC’s pre-law program. By his junior year, a suite of criminal justice courses had been added to AIC’s repertoire, and Gibbons added himself to the class lists.

An early graduation followed in December of 1977, and Gibbons enrolled immediately thereafter into AIC’s Criminal Justice graduate program.

By this time, Gibbons said he’d developed an interest in the breadth of cases and experience offered by an investigative position with the state police, and entered their ranks in 1979.

“I planned a sort of progression when I went into the state police, with investigations as my main interest,” he said. “I worked hard to get into investigations early in my career, and I proved that it was my forte.”

Gibbons first entered the MSP’s Division of Intelligence in 1983, and spent the next 26 years investigating a number of high-profile cases in the areas of organized crime, gang violence, and terrorism, to name a few. He spear-headed the Western Massachusetts Gang Task Force, served as the Western Massachusetts commander for the state attorney general’s office, and also became a team leader for the State Police Crisis Negotiations Unit. Most recently, he has led the state police detective unit assigned to the Northwestern district attorney’s office, covering Hampshire and Franklin counties.

“The result is a wealth of experience working homicides, arson, narcotics, and many other major cases,” said Gibbons, noting that some of his duties have included the administration and supervision of wire-tap, Internet crime, and ‘Cyber Tip’ investigations, management of confidential informants, and retrieval of contraband evidence.

In 1996, Gibbons received a U.S. Drug Enforcement commendation for work on a racketeering and narcotics investigation involving the La Familia gang, and an FBI commendation for his contributions to a narcotics and firearm investigation of the Almighty Latin King gang. A second FBI commendation followed three years later, recognizing Gibbons’ contributions to the Western Massachusetts Gang Task Force.

These career highs and many others are what many elected officials say make Gibbons a strong candidate for U.S. Marshal. Regardless of what the future holds, however, Gibbons says his professional focus will remain curbing violent crime both state- and nationwide.

“That’s always been my focus, and the bottom line is that’s what law enforcement is all about,” he said. “It’s about cleaning up the streets and making that a top concern in everyone’s minds.”


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