Allentown Mayor Ray O’Connell administered the oath of office today to Police Chief Charles Roca and Assistant Chiefs Michael Becker and James Gress during a ceremony in City Council Chambers.
Roca’s nomination was confirmed by City Council in September. Becker and Gress were promoted from captain to assistant chief earlier this month.
“Roca will be an outstanding chief,” said O’Connell. “He is well respected by the rank and file of the department and by the members of the community. He has great plans for the department, and I am very confident that he will see them through.”
Prior to becoming interim chief in June, Roca had been serving as Assistant Chief of Police – Operations.
Roca was hired by the Allentown Police Department in January 2002 and in just two months became a vice detective. He later was a K9 handler while working in the patrol division. Roca was promoted to sergeant in April 2012 and to lieutenant in April 2016. While a lieutenant he commanded the 1st and 4th platoons. Roca was promoted to captain in April 2018.
Chief Roca graduated from Dieruff High School and holds a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from King’s College in Wilkes-Barre. He is a February 2020 graduate of the Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command.
Chief Roca is the recipient of four department commendations for merit.
“I am both humbled and honored to be the Chief of Police in Allentown,” said Roca. “I would like to thank Mayor O’Connell and City Council for their support during the interim and confirmation process. I am excited to work with the men and women of the Allentown Police Department as we move the department forward. With Assistant Chief James Gress and Assistant Chief Michael Becker, we have a leadership team that is stable and ready to meet the challenge. I am fully confident in their abilities and know that they will be successful. My team and I are committed to serving the needs of our community and will work in partnership with our residents, businesses, and other community members.”
Assistant Chief Becker was hired in August 2006 and was assigned to the 1st platoon. He then worked center city patrol, on 4th platoon night shift, before being assigned to the Police Academy in 2012 as the lead firearms instructor. In November 2013, he was promoted to sergeant and was the Assistant Director of Training/School Director for the Academy. In August 2017, he was assigned as a supervisor on the 4th platoon, then promoted to lieutenant of the 4th platoon in September 2018. He was promoted to captain in August 2019 and assigned to administration. In February 2020, then Captain Becker took on the role of leader of the Criminal Investigations Division. In July 2021, Becker took over Patrol Captain responsibilities.
Assistant Chief Becker has received five commendations: one for valor, one for bravery, two for achievement and one for merit. He was a 10-year member of the Emergency Response Team, half of which was as a Team Leader. He is also a combat veteran, U.S. Army National Guard, having served in both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Assistant Chief Gress graduated from the Allentown Police Academy in the fall of 1987 and came to Allentown with police experience in April 2002. He was assigned to the patrol division of the 3rd platoon. In early 2005, he was transferred to the Criminal Investigations Division as a detective and in the fall of 2007 was transferred to the Office of Police Administration to oversee the department’s compliance with the Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Accreditation program.
Gress has acquired a considerable amount of state and federal funding for the police department to improve its use of technology and community policing.
He was a 10-year member of the Crisis Negotiation Team and eventually worked his way through the ranks to become the Commander. He was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in February of 2011. Sergeant Gress also organized and operated the annual Citizens Police Academy classes from 2015 to 2019, which introduced citizens to the world of policing. In 2019, he developed and instituted the first Senior Citizens Police Academy to educate seniors about the latest scams and frauds.
In February 2020, Jim was promoted to Captain of Police Administration, overseeing the state (PLEAC) and National (CALEA) accreditation programs as well as the digital evidence unit and the Office of Professional Standards.
AC Gress’ extra responsibilities include working as an instructor at the Allentown Police Academy. He currently serves on the committee for Municipal Officers Education and Training Commission, where he develops required continued education and training annually for officers throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Gress also serves as treasurer of the Police Athletic League Board and assists with fundraising activities for the Honor Guard and the K-9 program.
Assistant Chief Gress has received two commendations, one for bravery and one for the Crisis Negotiation Team as a unit commendation.