PITTSFORD — Law enforcement officers from around the state joined Gov. Phil Scott and U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan at the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Academy on Friday to honor police and others who have died in the line of duty.
A wreath marking the loss of almost 40 law enforcement officers, including three canine units, was decorated with a flower for each officer at the Vermont Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Ceremony at what is commonly called the Vermont Police Academy. The event took place during National Police Week.
The governor said he had “always been in awe of those who put themselves in harm’s way.”
“When most of us see a threat, our natural instinct is to run away from it. But our military, first responders and law enforcement officers run towards it. You’re distinguished by your willingness to sacrifice yourself for others,” Scott told those at the ceremony, who were primarily in law enforcement.
Scott thanked those at the ceremony who were family members of officers who had died in the line of duty. He said he hadn’t realized at the time how difficult it had been for his mother to raise three boys on her own after his father died during World War II. Assistant U.S. Attorney Wendy Fuller understands the loss when a parent dies in the line of duty. She was at Friday’s ceremony with her children and her mother, Deanna, not in her professional capacity, but to honor her father, James B. Fuller.
James Fuller, who grew up in West Rutland, was a special agent with U.S. Customs who died in 1984 when he suffered a heart attack while on required training.
During the ceremony, an officer from the department where the fallen officer was working placed a flower on the memorial wreath, but when James Fuller’s name was called, Wendy Fuller and her children stepped up to place the flower.
“It’s a nice recognition of his service. It’s bittersweet,” she said.
Nolan said there was no place she would rather be than at the memorial service on Friday.
“The reason is there’s no higher priority for me, for my office, than consistent and strong support of law enforcement. We back blue. And we back the green and the gray, and every color that I see here today,” she said.
Nolan pointed out that no Vermont officers had died in the line of duty in 2018, but noted four officer-involved shootings in 2019, a “disturbing statistic that underscores how law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day to protect their communities.”
“Nationwide, in 2018, we lost 106 brave men and women in uniform as they performed their public service,” Nolan said.
Nolan spoke of her pride in being a Vermonter.
“As Vermonters, we know how fortunate we are to live in the Green Mountain State. Vermont is an incredibly attractive place to reside and when we acknowledge that, as we should, we must also recognize that this is due, in no small part, to the tireless efforts of law enforcement officers at all levels to keep us safe.” She went on: “Quietly, consistently, you put yourselves in harm’s way to protect your community. You make decisions every day to stand on the front lines of our campaigns to combat violence, gun crime, drug trafficking and other dangerous crime.”
Former Barre mayor Thom Lauzon and his wife, Karen, provided the wreath for Friday’s ceremony. He said that contribution started when he spoke to Barre City Police Chief Timothy Bombardier and found out there was no memorial ceremony in Vermont. “I thought it was very important to take, say, an hour a year and just say ‘thank you’ and remember those who lost their lives in the line of duty,” he said.
Lauzon said he was dedicated to having his family provide the wreath in perpetuity.
While the ceremony recognized law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty, the governor also recognized police officers who are currently serving.
“To those officers here today, you may feel like you’re just doing your job. That way of thinking shows your selflessness because I know it’s your service and sacrifice that keeps us safe on the roads, in our homes and in our communities,” he said. “You truly are role models to many, and set an example for all of us and you’re doing it out of dedication and commitment to service and duty.”