BURRILLVILLE – Much like the New England Patriots’ famed former quarterback Tom Brady, Burrillville Police Department’s Detective Lieutenant Guy Riendeau is torn about the decision to retire.
“I almost have a sense of mourning that I’m leaving,” Riendeau said. “This has been a second family to me. I didn’t look at it as work.”
Riendeau, a 35-year BPD veteran, is scheduled to work his final day at the Victory Highway safety complex on Wednesday, March 16. Soon after, he’ll begin a position as director of security for a private company.
It is not the first time the detective has tried to walk away from the much-loved career. Riendeau retired once before – ten years ago – but it didn’t quite take, and he returned after just two weeks.
“I was miserable,” he said. “I’ve been very happy since.”
It doesn’t help that the detective still enjoys his job – or that he’s had an attraction to police work for as long as he can remember. Born and raised in Woonsocket, Riendeau noted that even as a child, he was always in some kind of uniform, from crisp Boy Scout gear, to the robes he wore as an alter boy on Sundays at a local church.
“I always wanted to help people,” he said. “I always hated the bully.”
“It was just the course of action for me,” he added. “One way or another I was going to be a police officer.”
Riendeau was hired as a patrol officer for the Burrillville Police Department in May of 1987 at the age of 19 by then Chief Wallace Lees. At the time, he was the 15th member of the small-town department, which now boasts a staff of 24.
But in truth, the growth of the force is a relatively minor change when compared with the many ways police work has altered over his time in law enforcement. Typewriters and carbon paper were among the tools of the trade in the early days, where now computers are critical to the detective’s investigations. Officers, once tasked with developing their own crime scene photographs in a dark room, now exchange digital images in seconds. And equipment, which once included bulky – and optional – bullet-proof vests, soon will grow to include police body cams.
“It’s going to be a tool to use now,” Riendeau said of the cameras in Burrillville. “I never thought I’d see that happen.”
In 1998, Riendeau became one of Burrillville’s first canine officers, and around five years later, he was promoted to sergeant. That title that changed to “detective sergeant,” in 2006, and roughly three years ago, he was named lieutenant.
Over that time, he’s seen a lot of cases, and has watched not only the manner and equipment of police work change, but the volume and the types of crimes found in the town. Riendeau has worked three homicides over his career – and he solved cases at a time where it wasn’t as easy for different agencies to exchange information.
“Being a small department, you learn to work and establish contacts,” he said. “Those were vital.”
In 2007, he was the sole detective on an abduction case that came with a two-year investigation.
“There were a lot of sleepless nights, but it was worth it, Riendeau said.
Like many detectives, he does have that one case that still haunts him, the one his department couldn’t solve despite the best of efforts. For Riendeau, it was Janine Callahan, who was found dead on Cherry Farm Road in 1985. The detective was interviewed amid a push to solve the homicide as recently at 2019.
“Just knowing a victim died a horrific death and was left in the woods in this town was terrifying to me,” Riendeau said, noting that such cases become more difficult with the passing of time. “Witnesses and family members have passed on.”
From the 2007 murder of Vicki Connelly and 2015 murder of Domingo Ortiz, to the recent discovery of more than 200 guns in a town home, it seems Burrillville has had it’s fair share of high-profile cases over the years. Asked why the small town can sometimes keep police so busy, Riendeau pointed to Burrillville’s proximity to less desirable places to live.
“Is Burrillville a safe community? Absolutely.” Riendeau said. “People pool together. Just our citizens, as a whole, are great people. But crimes happen on the inside of the home. Unfortunately we get to see that.”
“The academy doesn’t train you for what it will feel like to see an injured child,” he said.
Still, when NRI NOW sat down with the lieutenant this week, it seems that all of those drawbacks of police work – the long hours, the disturbing cases, the missed holidays with family – were overshadowed by his love for the job, and for the people he has worked with for more than three decades.
Riendeau said that he intentionally kept his home outside of town during his career for fear that living too close would interfere with the job.
“Now, I would not mind moving to Burrillville,” he said.
Above his desk, now surrounded with packing boxes, hangs his favorite photo, taken years ago at the Burrillville Family Fair with his former K-9 counterpart, Conan.
“I’m just amazed that this day has come because I don’t feel like I’ve been here 35 years,” Riendeau said. “I will always miss this place. I’m leaving under the best of terms which probably makes it harder.”
Riendeau has worked under four chiefs, and noted that the recent years with Col. Stephen Lynch, who he described as, “a true leader in every sense,” have been good ones.
“I’ve very much enjoyed my time under Col. Lynch,” he said. “He genuinely cares about his people.”
He notes he won’t miss being on call 24/7, or not knowing when he might return home, but that the camaraderie with others on the force still makes leaving a tough decision.
“We have a great diversity of officers and backgrounds here, and I think that’s what makes us great as a department,” Riendeau said. “I’ll miss that. I’ll miss them.”
But unlike Tom Brady in 2022, Riendeau believes that this time, his retirement is for real.
“I know I’m making a good decision,” he said. “35 years in policing today is huge. I’ve worked with a lot of great people. I want to leave and be missed. I want to go out on top.”
“Will I second guess myself? I may,” he added. “It’s been my life for 35 years.”
Routine alone, he notes, could somehow bring him back to Burrillville.
“On a really groggy morning I may show up here,” Riendeau said with a smile.