RI officers honored for highway safety efforts

LINCOLN, R.I. (WPRI) — State officials honored eighteen police officers Tuesday morning at the annual Highway Safety Champion Award ceremony in Lincoln.

In all, the group issued some 6,000 violations in 2015. They excelled in three major traffic safety areas: protecting riders, cracking down on impaired driving, and speed management.

But it’s not about making quotas with tickets, speakers at the ceremony stressed.

“No police officer really likes writing tickets,” said Trooper Conor O’Donnell of the Rhode Island State Police. “That’d be a lie to say that we enjoy it. It really is a deterrent… It’s to keep in the back of [driver’s] minds that, that $40 citation will encourage them to wear their seatbelt,” he said, citing one example.

O’Donnell said he had a 15-and-a-half-year-old cousin who was thrown from a car and killed because she was not wearing her seatbelt. “It was just something that — More or less, I had to take personally — and I didn’t want to see it happen to anyone else’s family.

In 2015, 42 percent of fatal crashes in Rhode Island involved an impaired driver; the national average is 31 percent. 44 percent of fatal crashes were speed-related, and 42 percent of those killed in crashes were not wearing seat belts.

“Although the person who’s receiving that ticket takes the sting, what law enforcement is really trying to do is give a subtle nudge, and that nudge is out there to influence their driving habit,” said Sid Wordell, a retired Little Compton police chief who now serves as the Executive Director of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association.

The award recipients represent more than a dozen police departments across Rhode Island.

O’Donnell and Central Falls Police Sgt. Joseph D. Tougas were named to the “Overall 2016 Highway Safety Champion Award” for leading the state in numbers of violations filed.

The full list:

Class 1: towns with 1-15 sworn officers

  • Cpl. William P. Litterio, Richmond
  • Ofcr. Biago R. Longo, West Greenwich

Class 2: towns with 16-30 sworn officers

  • Ofcr. Jacek A. Ochocki, Burrillville
  • Ofcr. John C. Leduc, Tiverton

Class 3: towns with 31-60 sworn officers

  • Ptlm. Matthew S. Larson, East Greenwich
  • Ofcr. James C. Francis, Portsmouth
  • Sgt. Joseph D. Tougas, Central Falls

Class 4: towns with 61-100 sworn officers

  • Ofcr. Nicholas D. Gannon, North Providence
  • Ofcr. Robert R. O’Hare, North Providence

Class 5: towns with more than 101 sworn officers

  • Ofcr. John M. Curley IV, Warwick
  • Ptlm. Jose I. Deschamps, Providence
  • Ptlm. Michael R. Troia, Providence

Class 6: Rhode Island State Police

  • Tpr. Jean C. Tondre
  • Tpr. Christopher E. D’Angelo
  • Tpr. Conor S. O’Donnell

Also honored were Officer Kevin J. Murphy of Lincoln, Sgt. John P. Andrews of East Providence, Det. Jason L. Berthelette of Woonsocket, and a civilian, James E. Barden, Jr. of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation Office on Highway Safety.

Special recognition awards were also given to Col. Stephen M. McCartney, chief of the Warwick Police, for leadership, and an agency award to Chief Anthony M. Pesare and the Middletown Police.

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