It was a first for the Johnston Police Department, but after holding a retirement ceremony last Friday at The Bridge at Cherry Hill, Police Chief Richard Tamburini said they would be back.
While the morning’s event was to honor three veteran police officers who were retiring, Tamburini began his remarks with a request.
“Today marks one week since the shooting where we saw the professionalism and compassion of first responders who saw firsthand the terrible aftermath of last week’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School,” Tamburini said. “I ask that we offer our thoughts and prayers for all 26 victims. Please join me in a moment of silence.”
Tamburini then turned the focus to the guests of honor.
“This is an important day, especially for the family, friends and colleagues of Major Raymond Skomin, Detective Richard Almonte and Officer Phil Viens and his partner Bono – all of whom are Johnston’s finest public servants who will retire from our department,” he said.
Skomin, a 23-year veteran of the Johnston Police, was unable to attend the ceremony, but Almonte and Viens were presented with plaques to commemorate their years of service.
“When three senior officers decided to retire at the same time, losing them is a real loss,” Tamburini said. “They have served this department and our town with commitment, compassion and fairness for a combined total of 64 years of dedicated service. They have distinguished themselves as ethical leaders of integrity and character.”
Tamburini also told the audience that “Ray, Richard and Phil have displayed such devotion to duty, I know this decision to retire was a difficult one to make.”
He noted, however, that each officer has the satisfaction of knowing that the safety of Johnston residents is left in good hands.
“We have a great department with some of the most talented and professional officers in the state who will be able to measure up to your high standards,” he said.
Tamburini emphasized that he indeed had the good fortune of working with all three officers and that they have served the town well.
“Throughout their careers, they have been the recipients of countless awards and honors,” he said. “Not seeing Richard [Almonte] every morning will be a letdown. I hope retirement doesn’t diminish the light of his smile; I will miss his stand at attention salute and his unfailing courtesy, his trust, attention and expertise have delivered results.”
Almonte served the JPD for 21 years. He worked in detectives and was in charge of the juvenile division.
Viens, meanwhile, worked for 20 years as a JPD patrolman. His greatest achievement came when he carried an elderly woman from a burning dwelling to save her life.
“I received a hero’s medal for saving a woman’s life. I’m no hero; I was just doing my job. Let me introduce you to a real lifetime hero – Cecile Viens,” he said. “She took me in when I was young and she gave me a new life. She’s my hero ... forever.”
Viens also founded the JPD’s successful Bike Run for Special Olympics that began a profit of $500 15 years ago, and this time around netted more than $30,000.
“We are going to miss Phil,” said Tamburini. “He is a person who knew just what to do to brighten up your day. From being Santa’s Elf [at the Walk with Cops Christmas Party] to saving a woman’s life, he has done it all.”
Viens’ K9 partner, Bono, has assisted local, state and federal agencies with narcotic- and patrol-related operational calls over the course of three years. Bono is the department’s second police canine to retire.
Before closing, Tamburini said he has “great respect” for the newly retired officers.
“God Bless and it is my hope that each of you continue to enjoy life at its best,” he said.