WOONSOCKET – The police department revived a past tradition Friday evening when it handed out 196 recognition awards to its members.
The ceremony at the Father Marot CYO Center at 53 Federal St. also included awards for community members and organizations such as the Woonsocket Prevention Coalition that have worked with the department over the years to improve the quality of life of local residents.
Police Sgt. John E. Raymond, who served as master of ceremonies for the evening with the help of Sgt. Kevin Greenough, said the event was a “great night for the police department’’ but also a great evening for the community as a whole.
After not issuing department recognition awards for more than a dozen years, Raymond and Greenough explained that the department’s seven member awards committee faced a difficult challenge in pulling together all the information that would be needed for a proper ceremony honoring the commendable duty of so many members of the department.
Police Chief Thomas E. Carey concluded that Raymond, Greenough, and the other members of the award committee — Captain Michael Lemoine, Lt. Edward Cunanan and Sergeants Kevin Sanford and Sean Carpenter — had been very successful in completing that work.
“These guys really stepped up to the plate and put in the long hours necessary to make this happen,” Carey said.
The awards to be presented would show the various strengths the department holds in its membership, according to Carey.
“I’ve got 30 years in the law enforcement business and I’m telling you this is a great police department,” he said.
Carey also pointed to the community groups such as the Woonsocket Prevention Coalition, the department’s “Organization of the Year,” and individuals such as Margaux Morisseau of NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, who received “Citizen of the Year,” as providing much needed assistance to police officers in their work.
“I have been here four-and-a-half years now and I think everyone knows am very community oriented,” Carey said. “And you’ve got to have those partnerships. The police department can’t do it alone.”
Carey described the support of community groups as a great power behind the department, adding, “that is what tends to make communities rise.”
As for the honorees, Carey said, a police department needs its cruisers, its weapons and computers, but noted it is the “men and women who work there that really make the difference.”
“One of our goals is to provide quality service to the community and just to be the best police department in the state, and I think tonight when you hear about some of these awards, you will understand that and see that, yes, we are becoming the best police department in the state,” Carey said.
Mayor Leo T. Fontaine, who joined U.S. Rep. David N. Cicilline as guest speakers for the evening, had nothing but praise for the department members being honored.
“I can tell you it really makes me proud to be able to be here as mayor and let’s not kid each other, there are a lot of difficult times going on and we are having a large struggle that we’re trying find our way through,” Fontaine said while referring to the city’s ongoing fiscal crisis.
“But through all of this, I have to tell you the police department has been something that has nothing but amazed me in its resilience and ability to shine throughout all of the difficulty.”
The department has seen “some difficult times” over the last several years and he has also been “really proud to be able to be part of this process in turning things around,” Fontaine said.
“So many new people have come out of there, great, great new officers and our veteran officers, who have been around for a while, have been nurturing them and making the department something we can be proud of,” Fontaine said. “It’s really something that I just marvel at, the turnaround we’ve seen in the past few years, and I think we can all tip our hats and be proud of our police officers.”
Fontaine added that he has taken the department “to heart more than I would have expected and it means a lot to be able to be here and I thank all of you, all of the men and women of our department for making our city proud and standing up to all of the hard times and making this department one of the best departments I think it could ever be.”
Fontaine concluded by thanking Carey for his work with the department, a point of recognition also handed out by Congressman Cicilline.
“I think part of the success of this department is the visionary leadership of your chief (Carey) who has understood from the day he arrived here that building a relationship between the department and the community was the single best way to really strengthen the effectiveness of this department,” Cicilline said.
“I know there are many community partners here and many residents of this city who have been part of that,” he said. “I just want to salute you, chief. You have been so engaged in the community. I don’t think I could come to any event in the city, any community event that the police chief has not been there and that does not happen in every community and so I salute you and thank you for that,” Cicilline said.
Cicilline said he also wished to congratulate the officers being recognized during the ceremonies and offered that “there is no greater responsibility that we have at every level of government than ensuring the safety of the people we serve.”
“Officers of this department do that every single day, do it with professionalism, do it with commitment and do it in a way that has engaged the community in this work,” he said.
Cicilline said he had looked through the assembled awards and found them to be representative of their work in the community.
“These are awards for men and women who every single day do heroic things that we sort of just expect them to do as part of their jobs. But police officers in this city and police officers everywhere in this country are really American heroes that keep our community safe,” Cicilline said. “ And it is really, really important during the course of their service that we take time and recognize them in particular and recognize their extraordinary accomplishments, and thank the family members here who make their own sacrifices when their family member is serving in law enforcement.”
As the awards were handed out, Cicilline and Fontaine stood next to Carey to congratulate each officer coming on stage to collect their certificates, plaques and uniform insignia.
Patrolman Jason Berthelette, a member of the department’s honor guard, was named Police Officer of Year after being picked from a group of nominees that included Patrolmen Patrick McGourty and Scott Breguet and Det. Thomas Gormley. Fontaine, in announcing the winner, said Berthelette in his five years on the department “has always maintained a professional attitude and approach to his job.”
“Officer Berthelette is a valued leader on his shift,” Fontaine said. “In an effort to create a safer community, Officer Berthelette is very proactive in patrol and consistently leads the platoon in arrests and citations issued even as a senior officer.”
Also participating in the ceremonies were members of the Department’s honor guard, Stephanie Boucher who sang the National Anthem, and the Rev. Sammy C. Vaughan and Rev. Gerard Finnegan, as Department chaplains.