The Commons
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Giving back

Newly promoted Lt. Robert Perkins sees his work as serving the community

Originally published in The Commons issue #182 (Wednesday, December 12, 2012).


BRATTLEBORO—The Brattleboro Police Department promoted officer Robert Perkins to the rank of lieutenant in a short ceremony on Dec. 6.

A lieutenant slot is rare, because those positions usually open only when another officer retires, said Capt. Michael Fitzgerald.

Most officers usually have 10 to 15 years of service before promotion to the rank of lieutenant, said Fitzgerald.

Choosing a lieutenant takes more than checking the applicant’s seniority: The department also considers an applicant’s character, work ethic, leadership abilities, decision-making skills, and level of empathy toward fellow officers and the public.

Fitzgerald likened a lieutenant to being “a conductor” able to meld multiple pieces — community, safety, municipal ordinances, state laws, federal laws — into one cohesive piece.

The promotion process is strenuous and complex, said Fitzgerald. Applicants write a letter of intent stating why they are good candidates for the position, complete a timed written exam and oral exam, and interview with Police Chief Eugene Wrinn and Fitzgerald.

To remain neutral, said Fitzgerald, the oral board consisted of representatives from Rescue Inc., the Fire Department, the Department of Public Works, and police officers from agencies outside Brattleboro.

“It’s a very, very, hard process,” said Fitzgerald.

Three officers applied for the one available open lieutenant position.

The department now has four lieutenants, including Perkins.

Whether people view police officers positively or negatively, said Lt. Robert Perkins, “[Police] are the line between things being completely out of control and society functioning normally. That’s the line between chaos and order.”

Perkins admits he was “one of those kids” that former Police Chief Richard Guthrie had to chase more than a few times.

But, he also remembers his neighborhood on the receiving end of the Police and Fire Departments’ holiday toy drive.

That’s the memory that stands out, said Perkins.

Perkins views his work as “giving back to this community.”

Grew up in public housing

According to Perkins, he grew up in public housing at Moore Court. His mother, then single, tried to shield him from some of his family’s financial problems, said Perkins, who found out later that his family had benefited from services such as food stamps.

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