City police honored at annual ceremony

VERGENNES — Vergennes Police Chief George Merkel at the April 26 city council meeting praised his department’s work over the past year at its annual awards ceremony while singling out two members for honors and also recognizing one citizen and the city’s public works department.
Merkel presented a pin to Detective Sgt. Jason Ouellette for what he called “outstanding narcotics investigation” efforts.
Merkel told the council and about a dozen friends and family members of department officers that Ouellette “has been recognized at both a state and federal level as an extremely effective counter-drug asset and is regularly sought after for his assistance.”
Merkel said because of the city department’s efforts to curb drug use and sales, Vergennes residents were better protected than many other Vermont citizens.
“Your community is so much safer than other communities,” he said. “Jason in particular has done an outstanding job in narcotics enforcement.”
Merkel also praised Ouellette for “solving a number of other major crimes in our area and throughout Addison County and surrounding counties.”
For the second straight year, Merkel named Officer Patrick Greenslet the department’s Motor Vehicle Enforcement Officer of the Year.
While honoring Greenslet, Merkel said, “We seek to keep people safe,” and that motor vehicle enforcement, through not only dealing with speeders and impaired drivers but also through uncovering other problems during traffic stops, played a key role in meeting that goal. He noted Greenslet issued 19 citations for impaired driving, wrote 343 traffic tickets and issued 344 warnings.
Merkel gave a plaque to resident Scott Gaines for “outstanding community service to the city of Vergennes and surrounding communities,” and honored the four members of the Vergennes Department of Public Works — department head Jim Larrow, Patrick Crowley, Matt Crowley and Dan Flynn — for their good work, cooperation with his department and “can-do attitude.”
Larrow returned the compliment to Merkel and the department officers: “They’re always there to help us,” he said.
Merkel also had kind words for the other two full-time and three part-time officers in his department. He cited Patrol Sgt. Brent Newton’s certifications as a Drug Recognition Expert, which makes him qualified to detect drivers who are impaired by drugs and makes him sought after by other regional departments, and as a Commercial Motor Vehicle Officer, which allows him to play a crucial role enforcing truck laws in Vergennes.
Merkel pointed to Officer Adam O’Neill, whose K-9 partner Kane, he said, “is a tremendous asset and a very popular character around the city” and a “valuable asset in terms of drug interdiction.”
Merkel noted the department’s newest full-time officer, Mark Barber, graduated from the Vermont Police Academy with a 95 average and is a certified paramedic and first aid instructor; that part-time officer Bill Wager, also the Ferrisburgh fire chief, has been “an extremely effective officer” for 12 years; and that new part-time officers Brittany Clark and Mason Coleman have both “been doing a commendable job.”
Importantly, he told the council, the group functions well together.
“We have also put together a great team of officers,” he said. “Putting together a team of officers that have good chemistry and dynamics is challenging but essential.”
Merkel also took the opportunity to wrap up the department’s year, citing the arrest of two armed robbers, the peaceful resolution of a potentially volatile situation at Vergennes Union Elementary School, the recent work that led to the federal arrest of a potentially violent felon in New Jersey, the successful drug busts, and the amount of grant money it has obtained over the years.
He also noted the past 12 months were the department’s first full year in its new headquarters.
“This facility and its equipment and layout have enhanced our operational capability tenfold as well as making our jobs safer,” Merkel said.
That station is part of the community backing that is critical for the department, he said.
“We want to thank the citizens of the city of Vergennes for all your continued support,” Merkel said. “If it were not for the relationship we share with the community, we would not enjoy the successes that we do.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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