Vergennes police officers lauded

VERGENNES — Four members of the Vergennes Police Department were honored on Feb. 26 in front of the entire department, family members and the Vergennes City Council.
Detective Jason Ouellette received two awards from Chief George Merkel, while Officers Brent Newton and William Wager received one apiece. Merkel was also honored by City Manager Mel Hawley on behalf of the New York Police Department.
Ouellette earned both a Drug Enforcement Ribbon and a Croix de Negotiator Laurel. The ribbon, according to his certificate, was awarded because Ouellette’s investigations led to the arrest of 35 for possession, distribution or trafficking of illegal drugs, notably two major heroin busts in Leicester and Ferrisburgh.
The negotiator laurel is awarded for “composure, talk-down and wit which prevented a life threat.” Ouellette’s certificate cited an October incident in which he persuaded over the phone an armed and suicidal man to leave a garage without his weapon and surrender to authorities.
Wager also received a Croix de Negotiator Laurel for his actions in a September incident. According to his certificate, Wager spent more than two hours calming down an “irate and violent person” that police described as “mentally challenged” and said was posing an immediate threat to a caregiver and another household member. As a result, the incident had a peaceful resolution.
Newton, the department’s Drug Recognition Expert, received an Exceptional Duty Award for a fourth straight year for his traffic enforcement efforts. According to his certificate, Newton arrested 19 drivers who were under the influence of alcohol or drugs and issued 616 tickets and 337 warnings for motor vehicle offenses.
Hawley honored Merkel for his efforts in helping to solve a case that dated back to 2006, when Merkel worked with the Middlebury department. Merkel was presented an award from the NYPD’s Detective Endowment Association for his work and support during an investigation involving a person who was wanted by the NYPD.
This person, a member of the New York City criminal gang known as the Bloods, was involved in a drive-by shooting during which three people were shot, two fatally. Merkel learned the person had come to Vermont and was selling drugs in and around the Middlebury area. Merkel contacted New York detectives, who came to Vermont to coordinate on the case.
Subsequently, other members of the gang were identified and later arrested on federal charges for drug trafficking and distribution. The gang member was later apprehended and arrested in New Jersey. According to Merkel’s certificate, his efforts and assistance won him the recognition.
Vergennes officers also presented ceremonial blue roses to family members in attendance, as well as to the Vergennes City Clerk Joan Devine and Assistant City Clerk Melissa Wright, for their support of the police department. 

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