Protect and Serve

In a small town that practices community policing, officers faithfully fulfill their mission with courage and compassion

"I first met John Martin," writes reporter Richard Wolkomir, "at our town's high school track, where we both ran after work ... I also saw him patrolling in a police cruiser, yellow sergeant's chevrons on his blue sleeve. In time, I asked if I might accompany him on rounds."

For three months, Wolkomir rode with Martin and the officers of Montpelier, Vermont's police force, chronicling life and law enforcement in a small American town. There is relatively little violent crime in this New England state capital, with its 8,500 residents and a population that swells to 25,000 on weekdays as legislators and other workers arrive at their jobs.

 But there is more than enough challenge for police officers, who must rely daily on many talents — empathetic listening for troubled children, adolescents and their parents; physical prowess for subduing rowdy drunks; good humor for dealing with speeding motorists and their wacky excuses.

Even in this relatively peaceful setting, officers will find their lives on the line. There are drug dealers here and armed robbers and other potentially violent criminals. But in Montpelier, the police are, by choice and commitment, community servants and law enforcers. At the same time as they are apprehending wrongdoers, they are also trying to turn around troubled lives.

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