By Bill Zajac, The Republican (Massachusetts)
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - West Springfield police officer Jay L. Gearing's dedication to community policing in the Merrick section of the city goes beyond the call of duty.
That's why his chief selected him to be one of the 16 Greater Springfield police and corrections officers honored yesterday at restaurateur Enrico C. Daniele's 10th annual Police Day at Mom & Rico's Specialty Market.
"Jay and his crew work extremely hard at keeping Merrick safe, especially for kids," said West Springfield Chief Thomas E. Burke.
Gearing takes children to sports events and on hikes and organizes athletic events for them, Burke said.
Other officers honored and the police forces on which they serve were: Edward Vanzandt, Michael Goggins, Sgt. Mark Rolland and Edward Sierra, Springfield; Paul Gay and Mark Baillargeon, Chicopee; Sgt. Francis Nowak, Sgt. Louis E. Tulik, Ludlow; Harold R. Swift III, Wilbraham; Capt. Michael Kent, Amherst; Sgt. Denis Sheehan, East Longmeadow; David Scott Cayer, Longmeadow, and Jeffrey J. Joniec, Holyoke. Also honored were Cpl. Kenneth Boucher and correctional officer Clinton Harris of the Hampden County Sheriff's Department.
All honorees were chosen by their police chiefs except for Vanzandt and Goggins, who were chosen by Daniele, and Boucher and Harris, who were chosen by Hampden County Sheriff Michael J. Ashe Jr. for their work at Hampden County Correctional Center in Ludlow.
Ludlow's Tulik said Daniele's effort to honor police has become a tradition.
"There are a lot of officers who aren't going to be honored who like to stop here on this day. It's nice to be a part of this," Tulik said.
Daniele said the event has grown from honoring several Springfield police officers to police from 10 cities and towns.
"I think it will continue to grow. People don't pay enough respect to police unless they call 911 - then that's a different thing," said Daniele.
"I'd love to see a national holiday where police are honored," Daniele said.
Tulik was honored for his willingness to do anything asked of him, according to Ludlow Chief James J. McGowan.
McGowan was honored as police chief of the year after being chosen for the honor by other local chiefs.
Holyoke Chief Anthony R. Scott selected Joniec after Joniec recently arrested a suspect in a several-week string of vehicle burglaries in the Highlands neighborhood.
"Officer Joniec was alert enough that when he saw someone suspicious where the burglaries took place, he followed him and eventually stopped him, found radio parts that he was able to trace back to burglaries," Scott said.