BURRILLVILLE – In the past year, officers from the Burrillville Police Department have been called to several incidents in which citizens’ lives were in jeopardy.
They’ve confronted sex offenders, seized firearms, helped to take out drug cartels and recovered thousands of dollars in property by solving crimes.
Their achievements were recognized, and they remembered and recognized their partners and friends in the community, at an awards ceremony on Tuesday, Oct. 23 at the Assembly Theatre.
The program included a Lifetime Achievement award for Attorney General Peter Kilmartin. Kilmartin’s long career in law enforcement, and his work for two decades as a state representative, has resulted in numerous public service awards from groups including MADD, Justice Assistance, the Boys and Girls Club and the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce.
“The attorney general has been a fierce advocate for all police officers,” said Col. Stephen Lynch, pointing to laws Kilmartin helped to pass that protected children from predators, banned texting while driving, and updated internet safety rules.
Kilmartin, Lynch noted, was also the architect of the 2012 changes to the state’s Access to Public Records Act, and he speaks every year at the police training academy.
“He has a keen ability to identify and speak to what all are feeling in those special moments as an officer is about to enter a career in law enforcement,” said Lynch.
Fire Chiefs Joseph Bertholic of Oakland Mapleville and Harold Carter of Pascoag were recognized for their role in saving the life of a woman who fell into a river in Burrillville last year.
“Chief Bertholic and Chief Carter sprang into action, sliding down the embankment and into the water where they located the 47-year-old victim, completely submerged under water with the exception of her head,” said Maj. Dennis Leahey.
The victim, Leahey said, was disabled and unable to move the lower half of her body, and in danger of drowning. Carter and Bertholic were able to support her until backup arrived, and she was pulled to safety.
“The action taken that day by these heroic public safety officers changed what could have been a tragic event into one with an extremely happy ending,” said Leahey.
The victim, Jennifer Charbonneau, joined the chiefs as they accepted the Life Saving Award, along with Burrillville Police Lt. Jason Eddy, for his role in the rescue.
Ten-year-old Brianna Laliberte was named a “Community Hero,” for her role in saving her grandmother, Phyllis Dubois. Laliberte was home with Dubois and called for help after noticing her grandmother was behaving strangely.
“Brianna remained cool, calm and collected,” said Leahey.
Dubois was in medical distress and having a seizure, but was rescued thanks to Laliberte’s quick action.
Good police work was also recognized, including Off. Jennifer Baker’s role in reportedly solving two crimes.
Baker worked with law enforcement officials in neighboring communities to identify the suspect in a car theft. Her investigation of a complaint from a resident at Bayberry Commons of a stolen credit card led to a nursing aide admitting to several larcenies.
“To her credit she did not only focus on the complaint at hand,” said Leahey.
Several officers, including Baker, were recognized for their role in investigating a string of breaking and entering complaints, and linking the crimes to suspects caught in Jamestown. As a result, Leahey noted, thousands of dollars in stolen property were recovered.
Sgt. Ryan Hughes, and Officers Bret Simas and Rebecca Carvalho were acknowledged for their investigation of property damage after a motorcycle was vandalized outside of George’s Pizza. After identifying a suspect, the officers pulled fingerprints from a pint glass he had used inside the bar, and submitted them to a crime lab.
Law enforcement officials from Glocester and the Rhode Island State Police stood beside Burrillville officers receiving awards for their role in capturing the suspect in a violent domestic assault.
Hughes, Det. Robert Veader and Officer Jason Nault received commendation for catching a registered sex offender who was sending unwanted texts messages to a young girl. Police assumed the identity of the juvenile, and messaged with the suspect, eventually setting up a meeting.
“Unbeknownst to him, the person he was supposed to meet was Sgt. Ryan Hughes,” said Leahey.
Also among those recognized on Tuesday were the staff from Burrillville Animal Control, recognized as “Best in the Valley,” for five consecutive years by Rhode Island Monthly. Animal Control Officer Ron Woods was acknowledged individually for his 31 years of dedicated service.
The department also thanked RISP for the investigation and eventual bust of outlaw motorcycle gangs operating in and around Burrillville.
“The undertaking they embarked on was massive,” said Lynch. “Literally hundreds of criminal charges were brought from their investigation.”
“The men on the stage here tonight lost enormous amounts of time from their families,” Lynch said. “Their efforts without question made Burrillville a safer place to live.”
The Wallace F. Lees Award, a honor remembering a 31 year veteran of the Burrillville Police Department, was presented to the family of the late Pascoag firefighter, Lt. Richard Jenks. Jenks, a 72-year-old volunteer, died while fighting a chimney fire in February.
“His service to the department was legendary,” said Lynch. “Lt. Richard Jenks lost his life doing what he loved. His loss, now, is still crushing.”
The awards were presented before a full house that included public safety officials from both Burrillville and surrounding communities, along with local officials in town government. Lynch noted that 120 officers have been killed in line of duty this year – a figure he had to change the morning of the event after learning of another police death.
“They come to work to make this world a better place,” said Lynch of law enforcement. “Police officers are ordinary people. Their chosen profession is incredibly dangerous and demanding. They are men and women who have devoted their lives to protecting the people in communities where they work.”