BURRILLVILLE – From calls for service that required quick action by emergency personnel to save lives, to extraordinary efforts to help others by regular citizens, the Burrillville Police Department honored the town’s heroes at an awards ceremony Tuesday night.
It was a packed house at the Assembly Theatre for the annual event, bringing out government officials, law enforcement from Burrillville and several surrounding communities, and the family and friends of those honored.
Among them were firefighters from Oakland/Mapleville, involved in a rescue call earlier this year for a man struggling to breath who was beginning to lose consciousness. Along with Burrillville Patrolwoman Holly Barrett, the group took quick life-saving action, and the patient regained a pulse.
Major Dennis Leahey said Burrillville police have been dispatched to numerous calls for overdose emergencies in the past year, and saved five lives on such incidents.
It’s an element of the job that Attorney General Peter Neronha said has changed during the course of his career.
“You have to have compassion,” said Neronha. “We think about narcotics today very differently.”
“Police are community problem solvers,” he said. “We’re charged with being thoughtful.”
Exemplifying the change in thinking was Michelle Harter, coordinator of the Burrillville Addiction Assistance Program, who has spent the past year and a half running an outreach program from the BPD with hopes to address addiction issues.
Harter recently announced her retirement, and was recognized for her service.
Also commended were Sgt. Ryan Hughes, Patrolman Wayne Richardson, Patrolman Bret Simas and Dispatcher Keith McCarthy, who were all recognized by outside agencies during the past year for special highway safety efforts.
Hughes, Richardson and Simas were named Highway Champions for 2019 the Rhode Island Office of Highway Safety.
The department also commended those in their ranks who caught suspects through good police work, including a group who set up posts on the route home of a suspected shoplifter after a neighboring town issued a BOLO.
Leahey, Richardson and Det. Robert Veader were recognized for the efforts to catch several men who had stolen medical marijuana from a home. The officers obtained security footage, and 15 days later recognized the suspects when they were called to an assault at the Pascoag Dunkin’ Donuts.
Det. Lt. Guy Riendeau and officers with the Rhode Island State Police were among those recognized for their work in catching a suspect who robbed Norfolk Power Equipment.
Riendeau was also involved in an effort to arrest a man from Connecticut for first and second degree child molestation following a report from a 14-year-old from Burrillville, with the help of texts and social media.
The ceremony also included lighter moments, including when Sgt. Kyle Genereux and Officer Vincente Baffoni were commended for their efforts in apprehending a naked man attempting to break into his neighbor’s home.
Officers from Smithfield and Glocester joined Riendeau and Baffoni in celebrating their part in catching the three suspects who allegedly robbed Chum’s Spirits and led police on a high-speed chase.
Barrett was also among those honored for efforts during a September call for a suicidal subject inside a home in possession of firearms. The patrolwoman called the suspect on the phone and talked him into coming out.
“The incredible compassion shown by Officer Barrett in speaking to the man turned an incredibly volatile situation into one where this man is getting the help he so desperately needs,” said Leahey.
Lt. Jason Eddy was among officers commended for “extensive, meticulous,” work required for the BPD to receive reaccreditation this year.
Lynch called for a moment of silence for Ryan Ferris, a Burrillville first responder who died in an accident in March, also recognizing the colleagues who tried to save his life.
“This task was gut-wrenching and a testament to the dedication and skill of his fellow first responders,” said Lynch.
Among the Community Heroes recognized by BPD in 2019 were the owners of Alpha Dog Center, who have reportedly donated thousands in food and supplies to the Burrillville Animal Shelter; and Harrisville Fire’s Capt. Chip Mainville, who was named an EMS professional of the year.
Zoie and Jacoby Mercier were commended for their efforts to donate supplies to children’s hospitals through Two Siblings Challenge TSC.
A special Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Between the Cracks, a Burrillville-based organization that aims to help families in the community who need help, but don’t qualify for government assistance.
Lynch noted that the group helps between 600 and 700 families a year, from the single mom whose car breaks down, to the elderly couple that can’t fill their oil tanks.
“This organization is incredibly well known for bringing Christmas to families,” said Lynch. “This program truly represents the best of Burrillville. It’s made up of people with and incredibly generous hearts. They are truly unsung heroes.”
Chief Steven Reynolds, who retires this year from the North Smithfield Police Department also received the award.
Former teacher, administrator, coach and Korean War Veteran George Ducharme was presented the Wallace F. Lees Award.
“The environment all of these officer work in every day in not controlled and often not safe, until they make it safe,” said Lynch of those recognized. “What makes this a rewarding profession is the courage and character of these men and women.”
Visit NRI NOW on Friday, Nov. 1 for a gallery from the event.