Saturday June 22, 2013

WESTMINSTER -- The Windham County Sheriff's Department has entered into a contract with the town of Westminster to provide 40 hours of patrol services every week via a full-time deputy.

According to a statement from the sheriff's department, Deputy Ian Tuttle has been selected to fill the position. The contract is effective beginning July 1 and will last the entire 2013-14 fiscal year.

Windham Country Sheriff Keith Clark said Tuttle has been with his department for a couple of years and currently works with part-time certification. Tuttle will start his new job next month but another deputy will take over when he leaves for the full-time police academy in Pittsford in August. Tuttle, who will be required to check in regularly with the stand-in, will resume the job when he returns.

Clark said Tuttle has done a great job as a part-time officer and the decision to give him the new job was an easy one.

"His demeanor with the public is phenomenal. I have never had a negative comment about him," the sheriff said via cell phone on his way to a national sheriff's convention in North Carolina. "He's done a lot of traffic work and I have actually gotten calls and e-mail from people who have received tickets from him thanking me for his professionalism."

Tuttle could not be reached for comment Friday, but Clark said the deputy, who lives in Guilford and works with the town's volunteer fire department, has been encouraged to move to Westminster and is in the process of looking for a home there.

Tuttle will conduct general presence patrols and targeted patrols, as well as answer calls for police services. He and the Windham County Sheriff's Department will also work with the citizens and businesses in town to develop crime prevention programs to help protect the community from victimization.

At their Town Meeting in March, Westminster residents voted to adopt Article 5 of the Town Warrant, which sought to raise and appropriate money for the equivalent of a full-time sheriff's deputy assigned to the town as part of a shared services contract with Putney and the sheriff's department.

Clark told the Reformer the contract was signed on Tuesday, June 11. He said there had been talk about increasing patrol hours, as many townspeople feel Westminster should start providing more of its own police coverage and instead of relying solely on the Vermont State Police.

There was lengthy discussion about Article 5 at Town Meeting, as residents Ben Mitchell and Kathy Mazziott expressed their disapproval of it.

Selectboard member Craig Allen had endorsed the article, saying there had recently been a rash of break-ins and local businesses are suffering.

Mazziott said she feels safe in town because of the people she shares the community with and does not feel more secure by seeing police cruisers around town. Mitchell said he is sympathetic to businesses but they already benefit from taxpayers and he is opposed to bringing in more law enforcers to "harass" people who are speeding on town roads. As a result, he proposed an amendment that would limit the sheriff's deputy to 10 hours a week of traffic stops, so they can dedicate most of their time to investigating crimes.

Clark, who is a Westminster resident, indirectly addressed Mitchell by saying he considers traffic tickets not to be harassment, but rather a way of keeping highways safe. He said many crimes include motor vehicles and to limit the officer to 10 hours a week would be detrimental to the community.

The amendment was seconded on the floor but got rejected by voters. When a vote was called on the main article, voters overwhelmingly adopted it.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.