WOONSOCKET – It was a time for looking to the future and also one to remember the past as the police department honored two of its members with promotions Friday night.
Sgt. Edward J. Doura Jr. was sworn into the rank of lieutenant by Mayor Leo T. Fontaine, and Patrolman Michael Villard, in turn, assumed Doura’s former rank as sergeant.
Following his introduction to gathered family members, fellow officers and friends by Capt. Edward Lee, Mayor Fontaine thanked those in attendance for helping to recognize the department members at a milestone in their lives.
“It’s always a very celebratory time but I think now more so than ever, I think we can look back over the last year or so and see such great progress that the department has made,” Fontaine said. “We have such a great group of men and women here on the Woonsocket Police Department and I’ve been honored to be a part of this in a small way as public safety director and mayor.”
The mayor said he looks forward to working with the promoted members “and supporting them in everything I can do, and in our efforts to continue to improve upon our performance in lowering crime here in the city.”
Fontaine said those efforts will make Woonsocket “a city we can continue to all be proud of. Congratulations to you and I wish you the very best.”
Chief Thomas S. Carey encouraged all the department members to support Doura and Villiard as they adjust to their new department responsibilities.
“I know it is a special night for them and I want to ask everybody in the department to help them,” Carey said. “As the mayor said, we made a lot of progress this past year and we made a lot of progress with staffing.”
The department has lost a third of its 100-member force to retirements over the past three years, and Carey said it has been fortunate in recent months to fill most of the remaining vacancies with new department members.
The department has also built new relationships with community organizations over the past year and in the process benefited from grant funding like the sum of $2,500 Neighborworks Blackstone Valley helped it to receive for crime prevention work.
Carey said he had provided Doura and Villiard with a few tips of his own, some command decision questions to ask themselves when out in the field, and encouraged them to use the material along with all the other resources available to them.
“Decision-making is really important and we are here to help you to be successful,” Carey said before offering his congratulations to the department members on their promotions.
After being sworn in, Lt. Doura was pinned with his new badge by his aunts, Lorraine Doura and Dorothy Delaurier, as his parents Jeanette Doura and Edward Doura Sr. watched from the audience with Doura’s girlfriend, Jodie Schobel, and cousin, Providence Police Patrolman Steven Frechette.
Doura has been a member of the Woonsocket Police Department since 1990 and served previously with the U.S. Army and R.I. National Guard. He holds an associate’s degree in law enforcement from the Community College of Rhode Island and had served with the Patrol Division, Vice Unit, Traffic Division, and Juvenile Division before returning to patrol upon his promotion to sergeant in 2010.
While addressing the gathering, Lt. Doura said he was looking forward to the possibilities ahead and the possibilities of a ‘prouder, stronger and better’ police department.
Doura is replacing recently retired Lt. Steven Nowak and took a moment to thank the former lieutenant for his service to the community.
“I know I speak for everyone in this room in offering our congratulations on a job well done,” Doura said of Nowak.
He also took note of the many former department members attending the ceremony along with the department’s current members.
“As I look through this room, I see the face of this police department,” Doura said. “I see members from the past and present and I look back with fondness and great memories of the many I have had the pleasure to work with. I have learned from all of them.”
Doura cited former Lt. Ron Landry, now chief in Millville, Lt. Eugene Jalette, retired Lt. Robert Moreau, retired Sgts. Daniel Pion, Todd Fernandes, Sgt. Matt Ryan, and Lt. Kyle Stone, Det. Sgt. Shawn Kerrigan, Det. David Berard, Det. Alan Leclaire and retired Dets. Blaine Sheppard and John Donlon, for having a role in his success as did several newer department members.
“While it may be me up here today, the real reason I am here is because of you who have joined me here today and those officers that have come before us,” he said.
Doura offered special thanks to Lt. John Picard and Sgt. Kevin Sanford, with whome he had worked in the Night Uniform Platoon as sergeant. “I am proud to call them my friends and was fortunate to have them as my superior officers,” he said. “I would especially like to thank the entire Night Uniform Platoon for their professional hard work and the great job they have done while I had the honor of working with them.”
Doura concluded with a final word of praise for Det. Sgt. John Scully and Det. Sgt. Peter Hopkins, for their assistance and cooperation “when I sought it out.”
Sgt. Villiard was pinned by his wife, Ruby, as his father, Jean Paul Villiard, looked on with his stepdaughters Victoria and Olivia. His daughter, Brittany, was away at college and unable to attend. Villiard took a moment to remember his late mother, Constance, during the ceremony.
A Navy veteran, Villiard joined the department in 1993 and served until 1999 before joining another law enforcement agency. He returned to the city department in 2003 and has been very active in his patrol assignment as a member of the Field Training Unit, Special Response Team, and Peer Support group.
He was a 2009 recipient of the American Legion’s Medal of Merit for a lifesaving incident, and holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal uustice from Roger Williams University.
After taking the podium, Villiard gave his views on how he should take on the responsibility of a department supervisor.
The dictionary states that a supervisor has the power and authority to give instructions and orders to subordinates and also should be held responsible for the work and actions of other employees, he said.
While many in the room could likely accomplish that duty, Villiard said, he hoped to change his title from one of supervisor to that of “mentor.”
“When I defined a mentor, I found that a mentor is often the first person we look to as a valuable source of information and advice,” he said. “They exist in every aspect of human life, whether it’s professional, personal or spiritual. “Mentors share a personal relationship with their colleagues and the role of a mentor doesn’t always end.”
Mentors often remain involved in a colleague’s life as a counselor even after they have excelled in their pursuits, Villiard offered.
“That is the kind of pride and responsibility that I want as a member of the state’s finest police department,” he said.
Villiard pointed to several mentors he has known during his own career, too many to mention in the time available, but he did point to two as providing special encouragement.
They are the late Police Chief William Shea, who worked with Villiard while he was a department captain of the night platoon and had a bit of advice for him as a rookie sitting in his office one night.
“He basically told me, ‘Forget what you learned in the academy, kid, we do real police work here,’ Villiard recalled.
Shea then handed Villiard a stack of reports written the previous night by other officers and told him to read through them.
“It was two-fold for me: I got to learn the basics of writing a report and I also learned about the men who wrote the report and how they handled the call for service,” he said.
Villiard said he also worked for retired Capt. Jack Samek on the morning platoon and learned how to walk beats and check businesses and homes to make sure they had not been vandalized or broken into.
Samek, Villiard said, “was very good at letting you know when you messed up, but equally good at letting you know when you did something exceptional.”
“I’ve been here too long to mention all the mentors I have had the privilege of working with, but the police officer I am today is a conglomerate of all the positive traits that each and every member of this police department has passed along to me,” Villiard said.
He pointed to advice he received from retired Commander Marcel Beausoleil as being helpful to him today as he takes on his new responsibilities.
Beausoleil had been his ethics instructor in training and taught him to ask two questions in deciding issues: “Is it ethical and does it compromise officer safety,” Villiard said while relating Beausoleil’s questions. “If it’s ethical and does not compromise officer safety, then you can usually trust your gut instinct and make the right decision. If you judge by this rule and make the wrong decision, at least it can be corrected and you will learn from your mistakes.”
Also participating in the ceremony were members of the Police Department Honor Guard, Roger Demers, representing R.I. Attorney General Peter Kilmartin; the Rev. Sammy Vaughan, pastor of St. James Baptist Church and department chaplain; and the Rev. Gerald Finnigan of St. Charles Church, who offered the service’s invocation and benediction.