By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Hudson – Originally from Worcester, Chief Michael D. Burks Sr. became aware of Hudson long before joining its police department as the youngest full-time officer at age 20 in 1986. Since then he has developed three decades of experience working several positions in the department.
As a preteen playing football with the Worcester Vikings, he attended the Pop Warner jamboree when it was held annually in Hudson. Also, while in his teens playing basketball with the St. Luke’s Episcopal Church team in Worcester, he and his teammates bought Nike sneakers with the red Swoosh logo at Siger’s Sports, formerly on Main Street in Hudson.
“My first impression of Hudson was that it’s a nice, little town,” he said.
Burks commuted from Worcester his first year as a reserve officer. He frequently started his days familiarizing himself with the town’s geography.
“I’d come here an hour or two early to drive around and learn the streets,” he relayed. “When I was sent to a call, I’d know where it was located and the fastest route to get there.”
Burks moved to Hudson when he began as a patrol officer in 1987.
“As a patrol officer, I worked with the Central Middlesex Drug Task Force, which has since disbanded,” he said. “I worked several years as an undercover officer at a lot of communities around the area. If an undercover officer was needed in another community, instead of using one of their officers who is probably known to people in the neighborhood, they’d ask an officer from the task force to infiltrate.”
He noted that undercover officers from elsewhere worked in Hudson in the 1980s at Billy Jack’s, a biker bar formerly on Main Street.
“I couldn’t go into Billy Jack’s because I walked the beat, so they knew me,” he explained. “I worked for three months at Wellesley College, washing dishes, because they had a gentleman selling marijuana to students and employees. My job was to make friends with him, then get him to either sell to me or witness him making a sale. I’d go there and wash dishes for three hours a day, then come back here, put on my uniform and go on patrol.”
Burks drew upon his experience as an undercover officer when he worked as a detective in 1997.
“I gained a lot of knowledge through working undercover, needing to work with other organizations and agencies, and building that rapport,” he said. “So I had more of an understanding of what goes on in the detective unit.”
In 1998, Burks was promoted to sergeant. Again, he relied on past work experience.
“That’s a step where you’re not ‘one of the guys’; you have a different role,” he said. “I tried to remember when I was a patrolman how I did or didn’t like how the sergeant was doing things.”
His next promotion was lieutenant in 2004. In 2009, Burks approached then-Chief Richard Braga about the department’s need for a cybercrimes unit. Soon after, the unit was created with him as supervisor, and Detective Chad Crogan and Officer Christopher Vezeau as members. Crogan administers the department’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.
“Social media has helped us with incidents that have happened,” Burks noted.
Next, he was promoted to captain when David Stephens became chief in 2012.
“Right from the get-go, Chief Stephens said, ‘Mike, I want you to learn everything that I learned,’” Burks recalled. “That has helped me a lot.”
Burks began working as chief Sept. 23. He continues to support downtown Hudson.
“I love it that the downtown is revitalized and came back in a big way,” he said. “I’ve been working and living here for almost 30 years now. I consider Hudson my home.”