Seven Share Haverhill ‘Police Officers of the Year’ Honor

Seven Haverhill police officers share the distinction of being named “Police Officers of the Year.”

Patrol Officers Thomas Howell, Brittney Birch, Nicholas Brown, Wayne Tracy, Dana Burrill Jr. and Rick Welch and Sergeant Cliff Demeritt shared the honor recently during the annual Police Officers’ Ball and Awards at DiBurro’s. Haverhill Police Relief Association President Frederick O. Corthell, a detective, said the officers involved demonstrated outstanding judgment during two recent incidents.

“Patience, actions and resistance shown by officers made it possible to safe the life of a person in need of serious mental health and help prevent injury to all parties concerned,” said police Lieutenant William Leeman. He nominated Howell, Birch and Demeritt for their successful rescue of a suicidal person during a standoff Sept. 15.

“Concern, cooperation and dedication to citizen complaints” were attributed to Brown, Tracy, Burrill and Welch, according to their nomination by Sergeant John Spero. Those officers were all assigned this past summer to the Street Crimes Unit, which responds to the inner city area, including Mount Washington, the Acre neighborhood and downtown.

In addition to the Police Officer of the Year Award, each police officer received citations from Mayor James J. Fiorentini, the Haverhill City Council and Rep. Brian S. Dempsey.

Individual Sought 'Suicide by Cop'

Officers Howell and Birch were dispatched to the September incident when a severely depressed individual threatened to kill anyone who approached. He begged officers to shoot him. The officers called Demeritt, street supervisor, to the scene, according to Corthell. “Because of the (close) distance between them, they couldn’t use pepper spray,” he quoted the nomination. While waiting for a negotiator, there was a 30-minute standoff. Howell successfully talked the individual into giving up his weapon, allowing other officers to restrain him. An ambulance was standing by nearby and the man was transported to a hospital,” Corthell said.

Officers Rein in Inner City Crime

Brown, Tracy, Burrill and Welch were nominated for their collective actions, making approximately 400 arrests, responding to citizen complaints, issuing more than 200 motor vehicle citations and tending to numerous city ordinance violations, particularly possession of marijuana.

“Their saturation of public parks and playgrounds on mountain bikes or foot patrol in areas such as GAR Park and the Bradford Rail Trial led to numerous arrests and citations for offenses such as drinking in public, loitering and narcotics violations. These officers were also involved in many investigations, leading to the arrests of violent offenders, gang members and the seizure of firearms and narcotics, including heroin, marijuana and prescription pills,” Leeman wrote.