By Bruce Amaro
---- — It’s all about a local boy making good.
It’s a story that stretches 3,000 miles across the country to Inglewood, Cal., where the local boy — Mark Fronterotta of the Haverhill High Class of 1976 — became Inglewood’s 17th police chief this year.
After he served 31 years on the Inglewood police force, that city’s leaders decided Fronterotta was the person to lead the department.
For a local boy who was not sure of what he wanted to do after high school, Fronterotta cut his path in a career marked with purpose and interesting events.
Fronterotta’s service in his profession “included gang enforcement, narcotics, vice, and the Metro team. In 2001, following a decade of service to the Inglewood Police Department Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team, Fronterotta was selected as the Department’s SWAT commander,” said Inglewood Assistant City Manager Mike Falkow.
That was not Fronterotta’s plan when he finished high school in Haverhill.
“I did what most kids did after high school — I drifted around town and worked but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” he said. “I drifted around town, didn’t do much with myself. I looked at a couple of things, the military, different kinds of jobs. Nothing stuck, and I wasn’t doing anything with myself. After about a year of that, I figured I had to do something for myself and I started school.’’
After two years at Northern Essex Community College, he transferred to the Lowell University criminal justice program and graduated from there in 1981.
But at home in Haverhill, job prospects did not get any better.
“The cities and towns were going through the Prop. 2 1/2 thing, and the local economies were in tough shape,’’ Fronterotta remembered. “They were laying off cops and firemen, not hiring.’’
He looked at alternatives in law enforcement, but returned to his focus on entering a police force. He searched the state, even out of state and nationally. His calls and contacts lead him to openings on the west coast.
“I found an opening, here, through the friend of a friend kind of connection,” Fronterotta said of Inglewood.
They hired him within days and he has not left Inglewood since.
His career prior to taking over the police chief position went like this, according to the Inglewood assistant city manager: “Fronterotta was promoted to the rank of captain in August 2008 and assigned to the newly recreated Office of Special Enforcement where he commanded the Anti-Crime Team, Narcotics Division, Traffic Division, Vice-Intelligence Unit, and Gang Intelligence Unit. In May 2011, Fronterotta was selected by the South Bay Police Chiefs as the Area-G platoon commander.’’
With time in the hard crime divisions of police work to his credit and a steady climb through the ranks, Fronterotta directed his focus away from simply fighting crime and toward crime prevention. His work in the gang units gave him a first-hand view of the cause of violent crime in neighborhoods. He said he learned that crime has a culture in a community, and that is where he wanted to emphasize his work.
He said he works with neighborhood groups, crime watch groups, and child and adolescent community programs that give street kids sports or after-school programs to engage them in worthwhile activities. Fronterotta wants to make the younger population aware that there is a world of choice and ways to makes choices work.
He applied his experience to reconfigure the way policing operated in Ingelwood, with an emphasis on technology and community involvement.
“Chief Fronterotta was instrumental in developing a concept of directed patrols, specifically addressing quality-of-life issues, crime prevention, violent crime, and reducing the fear of crime in the City of Inglewood,” Falkow said.
Fronterotta’s career search took him a long way from home, and he has accomplished a lot. While fighting crime and guiding city neighborhoods towards more productive lifestyles for their young people, he fit in a little old-fashioned police work — directing traffic, but on a big scale.
“While serving as interim chief, Fronterotta led his department during the movement of Space Shuttle Endeavour to its new home at the California Science Center,” Falkow said.