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Legion recognizes Bristol police officer as a top cop

BRISTOL — The Vermont American Legion has named Bristol police officer Josh Otey its Vermont Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.
“All the candidates were worthy of the award and recognition … It had to be a hard choice for the committee in that they were all so deserving,” wrote Tom Scanlon, chair of the Legion’s Law and Order Committee in a letter to Bristol Police Chief Kevin Gibbs, notifying Gibbs that Otey had been selected for the award.
Otey has served in the Bristol Police Department since December 2011. He also works as a part-time officer with the Shelburne police, as a district security officer with the U.S. Marshals Service, and as a task force officer to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations. Otey is assigned as Bristol’s investigator with the Addison County Unit for Special Investigations and was re-elected first constable in Lincoln in this year’s town meeting elections.
Otey is also one of 50 law enforcement officers throughout the United States to have attained the highest level of certification offered by the National Criminal Enforcement Agency, that of master interdictor.
He is a certified emergency medical technician and volunteers on both the Bristol Rescue Squad and the Lincoln Volunteer Fire Company.
Otey’s career in law enforcement began in Vergennes, where he started as a patrolman and then attained the rank of detective before moving to St. Louis, where he served as a police officer for a number of years before returning to the Bristol area.
“Josh’s work is notable,” said Gibbs. “His expertise in computer stuff has been really handy. I think we were the first department in the county to make full use of body cameras based on his research, as well as other technological advances we’ve made with his assistance. And he’s extremely personable; he’s very friendly — even people he arrests appreciate his efforts.”
But the contribution to the BPD for which Gibbs most singled out Otey’s skills as a police officer is his key role in turning around the illicit drug situation.
“Coming in the door he did a lot to help us address the drug problem in the Bristol area,” said Gibbs. “And because Josh has a lot of prior experience in working drug cases we tend to throw them in his direction.”
Before Otey joined the force, said Gibbs, Bristol police lacked the manpower to adequately address the illegal drug problem.
“He came into a mess here because we were shorthanded,” Gibbs said. “The knuckleheads in the area had just about free run of the place. But once we got him on board full-time we had the opportunity to fight back. I don’t think we’ve solved the problem but we’ve turned the corner and we’ve settled things down quite a bit.”
Gibbs noted that Otey has “a high conviction rate on drug cases he sends down.”
On a lighter note, Gibbs recalled his first experience with Otey when he was a young Vergennes police officer:
“We were doing a START (Stop Teen Alcohol Risk Team) patrol, and we were actually doing a patrol on a night when they had homecoming at Mount Abe. We put him in plain clothes, basically dressed up like a high school student, and he went over and hung out at the homecoming and learned about four different parties that we tried to visit.”
Gibbs chuckles and then adds that Otey also got “three or four date inquiries from girls over there.”
This is the second Officer of the Year award for the Bristol Police Department. Officer Chris Scrodin received the honor a number of years back, in part for his work on the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program, said Gibbs.
Otey’s award will be presented June 25 at the Killington Conference Center.
Reporter Gaen Murphree is at [email protected].

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