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Sheriff Thomas Bowler takes office

(The following is the text of Sheriff Bowler's inauguration address January 5, 2011)

Almost a year ago today, we began our journey. People with great confidence in me joined our campaign, and together we prevailed. Today marks the end of that journey and the beginning of a new era for me, my wonderful family and the people of Berkshire County.

I would like to extend my profound and sincere appreciation to everyone who demonstrated such deep faith in me, and I pledge once again that I will work diligently everyday that I am Sheriff of Berkshire County to return your confidence.

When I launched this campaign, I told you that I was a public servant and that if I was elected I would run the Sheriff’s Department as is should be run — as a reliable partner to law enforcement agencies, social service providers and the courts. Beginning today, we will come together collaboratively and utilize each other as a resource. In this dire economy, collaboration is the only way to effectively advance the duties of the Sheriff’s Department and best serve the people of our community.

We are now experiencing a level of crime and violence in our cities and towns that can no longer be tolerated. We can’t reclaim any ground without first stopping the slide.
I envision the Sheriff’s Department, the District Attorney’s Office, state and local law enforcement agencies, mental health professionals and educators all working together to reduce the level of violence, the incidence of crime and repeat offenders in our community.

I will also pledge to work successfully with the Berkshire delegation all the way to the State House so that the needs of this community are certainly met.

As Sheriff, I will draw the line in the sand with the other law enforcement officials with violent offenders. I will lead the Sheriff’s Department the only way I know how, and that will be by example. And I will serve the public as I have for 24 years —honestly and honorably.
Now comes the hard part.

To my mom and dad, who have been watching over all of us, thank you very much.

To my beautiful family and my wonderful group of friends, it was all of you that gave me the strength and the courage to keep going. Thank you very much.

To all my campaign volunteers — we took on a challenge that nobody has done in 30 years, and this could not have happened without you.

To my brothers and sisters of the Pittsfield Police Department — working with such a remarkable group of individuals has been the greatest experience of my life. I’ve learned so much from each and every one of you, and in return I hope that I have been of some help to you over the years. I know your jobs, your challenges and your great responsibility to protect and serve the community. So I ask all of you to please, stay safe.

To the hard working men and women of the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Department — I told you during this campaign that the best years were ahead. Your best years have arrived.

Thank you all and God bless.  

Deputy Alibozek honored for life-saving action

Just like lightning victim Scott Jough had done the year before, Anne Marie Larson of Lanesboro wanted to be there personally to offer thanks when her life-saving Sheriff’s Deputy received some public recognition.

“I will always be indebted to him,” Mrs. Larson said of Deputy Lucas Alibozek, who was among emergency responders from throughout Berkshire County who were honored for their life-saving efforts during the Emergency Medical Services of Berkshire County’s 20th annual EMS Awards Recognition Dinner at the Pittsfield Elks Lodge May 14, 2010.

It was Sept. 12, 2009, three days before Mrs. Larson’s 72nd birthday, when Alibozek leapt into action, performing life-saving CPR when Mrs. Larson suffered cardiac arrest and collapsed on the floor of a local fitness facility.

“It was just my second time there, and then I’m pedaling my bike, and then I don’t know where I was,” Mrs. Larson recalled of that day. Alibozek’s efforts restored her breathing and pulse until Pittsfield Fire Department Paramedics and County Ambulance personnel took over with advanced life support. She regained consciousness in the ambulance, then  spent 12 days in the hospital between Berkshire Medical Center and Bay State Medical Center, where she had a defibrillator implanted.

“Now instead of going out with the girls, I go to BMC’s cardiac rehab — a great program,” Mrs. Larson said.

On a night of many ovations, when EMS responders from six agencies were honored for 17 saves, it was Mrs. Larson’s testimony that drew the loudest and most prolonged ovation.

“The cardiologist says everything looks good for me,” said Mrs. Larson, who has also been in remission for three years following two bouts with lymphoma. “Keep up the good work, Lucas. Between you and your department, we certainly are grateful for your wonderful work.”

Mrs. Larson’s husband, Warren, who also has an implanted defibrillator, carried a large family portrait to the dinner to drive home a point.

 “Anne Marie wasn’t the only one affected by that good deed,” he said. “We have four children and their spouses and 12 grandchildren. They all know Lucas’s name now, and they all love him to death. We’re all sure glad Lucas was around that day.”

Deputy Alibozek helps save a life

The Deputy was making a rare Saturday visit to the gym. The woman was there to work out for the second time in her life.

But thanks to their few moments together, the woman now knows what it’s like to survive cardiac arrest, and Berkshire County Sheriff’s Deputy Lucas Alibozek knows that when the chips are down, your Sheriff’s training can kick in to save a life.

Deputy Alibozek had missed one of his regular mid-week workouts at Retro Fitness on Merrill Road, so he was making up for it with a Saturday visit on Sept. 12, 2009, “the first time I was there on a Saturday in 9 or 10 months,” he said.

Just a few minutes into his treadmill session, he heard a thud behind him, and turned to see the woman, fallen off her stationary bike and lying unconscious on the ground.

As other witnesses stood by, Deputy Alibozek leapt from his treadmill to check on the victim, who was not breathing and showed no pulse. After yelling for someone to call 911, “everything just came back to me,” Alibozek said. “You don’t know how you’ll react until you’re in the moment, but my training took over. Fight or flight. And it was time to fight.”

As he began to administer CPR with chest compressions, another witness (who had been certified only the week before) began rescue breathing. After three or four repetitions of CPR, and calling for the nearby AED (automated external defibrillator), Alibozek said the victim began breathing, but then stopped again. After three or four more repetitions of chest compressions, as Alibozek was about to administer the AED, the Pittsfield Fire Department paramedics arrived and took over.

The victim’s son, who witnessed the incident, called Alibozek a few days later to say his mother was recovering, but had three blocked coronary arteries. The doctors told him that without the immediate intervention, his mom had less than a 10% chance of survival.

“Major Peter Ochs (Training Officer) tells us, you’re bound to use this skill once in your life,” Alibozek said. “I hope this is my once, but now I know I’m prepared and how I’ll react.”

Lightning Survivor Salutes Deputies

This time, Tom Grady was glad to see Scott Jough vertical.

The last time the two saw each other, they shared an ambulance ride to Berkshire Medical Center from Tanglewood, where Berkshire County Sheriff's Deputy Grady had performed CPR to save the life of the 40-year-old New Jersey real estate agent who had just been struck by lightning.

The two were reunited under much happier circumstances May 15, 2009, where Mr. Jough and his family joined in honoring Grady and the other deputies from the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Uniform Division who received “Save” Awards during the Emergency Medical Services of Berkshire County annual dinner and awards ceremony at the Pittsfield Elks Lodge.

“Over these last several months, I kept telling Scott that I would like to meet him standing up,” said Grady, a 27-year EMT who has maintained regular communication with the Jough family since the incident. “It was a joy to see that family together and enjoying life.”

Also honored from the Uniform Division, for their roles including First Aid, crowd and traffic control, radio communications and transportation, were Deputies Michael Garvey, David Lein, Francis Metivier, Anthony Sinico and Carl Bolio. Mr. Jough presented the Save awards to each of them.

Mr. Jough, whose original injuries included burns from the lightning, a ruptured eardrum, partial loss of hearing, taste and balance, said his only lingering physical issue is numbness in his feet.

One lingering issue that he welcomes, however, is his ongoing relationship with Grady, whom he describes as “an inspiration to me.”

“Meeting Mr. Grady was as though we already knew each other,” Mr. Jough said. “Finally getting to see him face to face was an absolute thrill. He’s a friend for life.”

“This type of incident creates a bond because you are able to see the results of the training and teamwork that prepares us for an event like this,” Grady said. “Many times we never get to see what the effects of our efforts have on someone.”

“The response to that incident on that day was nothing short of miraculous, as the outcome has shown,” Grady said. “Each of those involved responded and maintained control as chaos was surrounding them. This allowed us as a team to perform our duties in a way which, on that particular day, turned what could have been a very tragic outcome into a wonderful story of survival.”

Facility Earns National Accreditation

The Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office, Jail and House of Correction has received a formal three-year accreditation from the American Correctional Association.

This widely sought national honor makes the Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction just the 144th to be so recognized among 3,700 Adult Local Detention Facilities nationwide.

The formal accreditation, “in recognition of the attainment of excellence in the operation of an adult local detention facility,” was presented January 12, 2009 during a ceremony in Kissimmee, Florida.

In November 2008, three ACA auditors spent three days at the Berkshire facility conducting a standards compliance audit.

The accreditation audit, according to the ACA, “offers the opportunity to evaluate operations against national standards, to remedy deficiencies and to upgrade the quality of correctional programs and services.” Among the benefits of the accreditation, they said, are “improved management, defense against lawsuits through documentation and demonstration of a ‘good faith’ effort to improve conditions of confinement and a safer and more humane environment for personnel and offenders.”

Particular strong points cited by the auditors included excellent communication among departments, cleanliness of the facility, the classification process, inmate programs and cooperation among staff.

In addition to finding the Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction “one of the cleanest facilities audited,” the report declared “the team found employees of the Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction to be very professional, knowledgeable, friendly and helpful. Both staff and inmates feel safe in the facility. There are many outstanding services and programs at the facility.”

Since May of 2008, Sheriff’s staff had been collecting statistical information and building folders in anticipation of the audit, in categories ranging from food preparation to medical care and treatment of inmates.

During the formal audit, ACA auditors inspected folders for primary (policies and procedures) and secondary (log books, forms) documentation, interviewed correctional staff on all three shifts and spoke with inmates.

The ACA accreditation is the second major accreditation earned by the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office, Jail and House of Correction. In 2007, the Jail and House of Correction earned a three-year accreditation from the National Commission on Correctional Health Care. The Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction has been accredited by the NCCHC since 1980, and this marked the third NCCHC accreditation for the Cheshire Road facility, which opened in 2001.



Grady, Deputies Rescue Lightning Victim

If you MUST get struck by lightning, San Jough picked the right place to do it.

It was an ordinary Sunday on July 27, 2008 at Tanglewood, the popular Berkshire County summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Western Massachusetts. Patrons were lining up for the afternoon program of Mendelssohn and Beethoven, while Major Thomas Grady and his fellow Deputies from the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office Uniformed Division prepared for their assigned security duties.

Jough, a 40-year-old real estate agent from Westwood, New Jersey, was making his first visit to Tanglewood along with his wife, Mari, and their two young children, Peter, 10, and Sarah, 7. As a thunderstorm approached, little did they know that Mr. Jough’s life would soon rest in the skilled hands of Major Grady and his colleagues from the Uniformed Division of the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office.

The Jough family was lined up with other patrons at Tanglewood’s Main Gate, where Major Grady was stationed. It just so happens that Major Grady is a 25-year veteran EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) and is a widely respected instructor trainer for the American Heart Association and Red Cross. He was named “Basic Life Support Provider of the Year” by the Emergency Medical Services of Berkshire County in 2004, and is in charge of all training for the Sheriff’s Uniformed Division.

As a steady rain developed into a severe thunderstorm on that day at Tanglewood, Deputies started to take action and the Joughs considered their options.

“Our protocol is to open up our buildings (including the 5,000-seat Music Shed) and allow people inside if we see a storm coming,” Tanglewood Director of Facilities David Sturma said. “The Deputies advise them to seek shelter. We all work together. It’s a very good team.”

Deputies were able to monitor the approaching weather through Tanglewood facilities and on their cell phones, and grew concerned when they witnessed several cloud-to-ground lightning strikes on nearby mountains.

Although people were advised to stay in their cars and avoid using metal umbrellas, some started coming in during a slight lull in the storm.
Around this time, the Jough family decided to enter the grounds through the Student’s Gate, several yards to the left of the Main Gate — despite Mrs. Jough’s suggestion to remain in the car.

“That was mistake number one,” Mr. Jough told the Berkshire Eagle newspaper.

Just yards inside the gate, a powerful bolt struck the tree over the Jough family, blasting the tree apart and sending electricity through the umbrella that Mr. Jough had just taken from one of his children. The bolt entered Mr. Jough’s chest and exited his leg, leaving him unconscious, not breathing, face down in a puddle.  A large branch also struck him in the head. The blast knocked son Peter off his feet and propelled him 10 feet, but he was uninjured.

“The flash blinded me” said Deputy Carl Bolio, an electrician who is used to minor low-voltage accidents, and who was standing less than 100 yards from the incident. “This was about 30 times more extreme. It felt like a hard punch in the chest.”

Another Deputy, Colonel Michael Garvey, saw the victim go down from the Main Gate, and was the first to call out “Man down.”  He, Grady and Captain David Lein responded from the Main Gate, Bolio from the grounds and Captain Fran Metivier and Deputy Anthony Sinico from the gate near where the Joughs had entered – all less than 50 yards from the incident.

Responding Deputies thought at first they were dealing with a man hit by a tree branch, “but as soon as I rolled him over, I knew there was a burn involved,” Grady said after assessing the emergency.

That is when Grady kicked it into high gear.

After detecting neither a pulse nor breathing, Grady initiated chest compressions, while a doctor from the crowd commenced rescue breathing. Immediately, Grady directed the other Deputies to alert a nearby ambulance crew, and to bring an AED (automated external defibrillator) and a stretcher. Although pouring rain and lightning continued around them, Major Grady and the doctor succeeded through chest compressions and rescue breaths to re-establish Mr. Jough’s pulse and breathing. Less than five minutes after the lightning strike, he was on a stretcher, on the way to the ambulance and a waiting trauma team at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, a Level 1 trauma center 10 miles north of Tanglewood. Mr. Jough had no feeling on his left side, and was still in a life-threatening situation, but he regained some consciousness in the ambulance, much to Grady’s relief.

“He spoke and asked the EMT what happened,” Grady recalled. “I won’t say it was a relief, but it was like you could take that big sigh for a few seconds.”

“I really don’t remember what happened,” Mr. Jough said. “I blacked out and woke up in the ambulance.”

Captain Lein drove the victim’s family to the hospital, where Mr. Jough was stabilized and Mrs. Jough was able to meet with Major Grady.

“I remember her leaning over and whispering that she needed to be strong for Mr. Jough and the children,” Grady recalled. “Sometimes in this business, you can become hardened to dealing with traumatic incidents. But those words brought tears to my eyes because during all that was happening, her concern was for her family, not herself.”

Later, the Deputies involved had a chance to assess what they had been through.

“In 30 years at Tanglewood, I’ve never seen anything like this,” Colonel Garvey said. “I can’t say enough about what Tommy Grady did. I thought sure the guy was dead.”

Grady described the whole ordeal as a “textbook case for CPR training. You had a witnessed cardiac arrest, immediate response with CPR and AED available, an ambulance and EMTs nearby, ALS (Advance Life Support) on the way and the trauma team at the hospital notified and standing by. It couldn’t have gone any better for him.”

“I have been an EMT for 25 years and experienced many different types of calls, but this was a first for me,” said Grady, who was called upon for search and rescue duties at Ground Zero following the 9-11 attacks in New York, and who worked security for the Democratic National Convention in Boston. “It was also the first time that I responded to a call where immediate intervention with CPR helped with a successful outcome.”

Grady was also quick to deflect praise to his fellow deputies, who quickly summoned help, alerted the nearby ambulance crew, controlled and protected the Tanglewood crowd, tended to the needs of Mr. Jough’s family and assisted with the stretcher. They also quickly notified both an Advanced Life Support Unit and the hospital, so that a paramedic unit could intercept the ambulance en route and so that the trauma team could be assembled at the hospital for the victim’s arrival.

In an email to Grady, Mr. Jough said. “I truly feel that you did save my life...My family wants to thank the entire Berkshire Sheriff’s Office for its due diligence and fantastic professionalism.”

Mr. Jough was stabilized at Berkshire Medical Center, then flown by medical helicopter to a medical center nearer his home in Westwood, N.J., located about 20 miles northwest of New York City. Within a couple of weeks, he said he had regained the feeling in his left side that had been numbed by the strike, and that the entry and exit wounds left by the lightning were healing faster than expected. He said he still had some lingering issues with hearing, smell and balance.

“I would like to thank all the people who helped save his life,” Mrs. Jough added. “Without such a quick response and rescue, I really don’t know what kind of outcome we’d be facing…The incident was very scary to us, but without your help, he wouldn’t have survived, I believe.”

Uniformed Division Deputies perform volunteer and paid details throughout Berkshire County after undergoing a 154-hour Massachusetts Intermittent Reserve Police Training regimen.

Major Grady credits a strict training regimen for preparing the Deputies to respond to such emergencies.

“Every month at our meetings we have training, and every year we update CPR training and do a refresher in catastrophic events,” said Grady, who is in charge of training for the Uniformed Division. “It’s repetitive, and you’re hoping it never happens, but you hope your training kicks in when something bad happens, and it does.”

“You talk about repetition in training,” Lein added. “Because of that, on that day, there was no hesitation on anybody’s part. I’ll never complain again about doing something over and over.”

“For our department as well as for all other public safety agencies, the successful outcome of any traumatic or catastrophic event is pre-planning,” said Grady, who is also vice chairman of the Western Massachusetts Regional Homeland Security Council, and chairman of its training and exercise committee. "Having a plan, training, exercising the plan and constantly working to improve response is critical to providing the highest level of public safety service to the community.”

CHILD Project Enrolls Over 2,000 Students

The Sheriff's successful CHILD Project has enrolled more than 2,000 Berkshire County elementary school students.

The CHILD Project, and the affiliated Senior Safety Net for senior citizens, use iris scan biometric technology to enter participants into a national data bank. The program helps identify missing children or senior citizens and helps return them safely home.

The 2,000th student to be registered was Makenzie C. LeClair, a fifth grader at Silvio O. Conte Community School in Pittsfield. His principal, Donna Leep, was on hand to watch his information entered into the data bank on January 22, 2010. Makenzie was among 48 Conte students who took part in the program, which has visited 14 schools since the program was launched in June, 2007.

All three North Adams public elementary schools, Sullivan, Greylock and Brayton, have taken part in the program along with Cheshire Elementary School, Clarksburg Elementary School, Savoy Elementary School, Plunkett Elementary School in Adams, Muddy Brook Elementary School in Great Barrington, Craneville Elementary School in Dalton and Conte, Capeless, Stearns, Williams and Allendale  Schools in Pittsfield.

The CHILD (Children’s Identification and Location Database) Project involves a simple high-speed digital photo of the individual’s irises. After the photo is taken, the iris data is analyzed and a 688-byte code is created and compared to all codes in a national database maintained by the Nation’s Missing Children Organization (or the National Center for Missing Adults) based in Phoenix, Ariz.

Nationally, more than 2,000 children are reported missing daily, and there are more than 47,000 active missing adult cases.

Sheriff’s Offices statewide take part in the project, financed through a $439,000 appropriation by the state legislature. Sheriff's Deputies have been trained in the use of the technology.

Community Service Crews Make Big Difference

Throughout Berkshire County, the Sheriff's Community Service work crews save communities, schools and non-profit agencies thousands of dollars each year, while also teaching inmates valuable work skills that can be put into play after their release.

“They get a tremendous sense of pride in what they’ve accomplished,” said Doug Malins, president of the SIOGA Club in Pittsfield, one of the beneficiaries of more than 3,000 man hours of Community Service inmate labor countywide in 2007.

The list of Sheriff’s Community Service projects in 2007 stretches the length of Berkshire County.

In North Adams, inmate crews painted and cleaned the National Guard Armory, and did extensive painting, repair and cleanup at the Spitzer Senior Center.

In Cheshire, crews aided the Sheriff’s business partner, Cheshire Elementary School, with painting, repairs and ground work.

Efforts in Lee included extensive cleanup, repair and painting at Sandy Beach, plus work in the town cemetery.

Projects in other communities included cleanup and painting at the Berkshire Scenic Railway in Lenox, hydrant painting for the Stockbridge Water Department, installation and removal of snow fences in Richmond and cemetery cleanup and painting in Dalton.

Among the more extensive of the many Pittsfield projects has been work at St. Joseph Central High School. There, inmates removed 21 large heating units, each about 7 or 8 feet long and weighing about 550 pounds, and loaded them into trucks for disposal. Also, they did extensive painting of ceilings, walls and doorways and removed old lockers.

School officials weren’t the only ones who praised the Sheriff’s contributions, and recognized the value of the Community Service program to the inmates.

“The Sheriff’s support has meant an awful lot to us,” said Malins, whose SIOGA club has struggled with volunteer labor to open its new facility on Linden Street to serve those who want to address their addictive behavior. Inmate crews have dismantled an old pizza parlor around which the new building was framed. There has been a lot of carpentry work, laying out walls, bracing and framing.

“They’ve saved me about eight months of work,” Malins said. “I have volunteer work parties on Saturdays, and maybe two guys show up. You can’t get a lot accomplished that way.”

The emphasis of Community Service is to teach job skills, and Malins said “they’ve exceeded my estimation of their capabilities. They knuckle down and get to work.” Several, he said, have come back and volunteered after their release.

"They're about the finest bunch of young men I've dealt with," Malins said of the inmate crews. "They thank me for allowing them to come to work. That's a rarity."

Rescue Team Drills, Seeks Volunteers

Members of the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Underwater Search and Rescue Team, under the direction of team coordinator Deputy Thomas Grady and Chief of Diving Operations Bob Lamb, gathered at the Housatonic River in Glendale to conduct a swift water rescue drill.

More than a half-dozen team volunteers took part in the drill, during which an air-charged fire hose, connected to a rope, was stretched across the swiftly moving river. The hose was anchored on both sides of the river. Team members serving as “victims” then grabbed the fire hose, and were guided safely toward shore by volunteers serving as shore tenders, once the rope and hose were released from the far side of the river.

The Sheriff’s Underwater Search and Rescue Team, manned entirely by volunteers, responds to water emergencies year round throughout Berkshire County, including ice rescue emergencies. The team has answered more than 200 calls since its formation in 1990.

The team is actively seeking more volunteers. In addition to certified divers, who must supply their own dive gear, the team needs volunteers to serve in the critical role of on-shore support. Interested volunteers should contact Deputy Grady at the Sheriff’s Office, 443-7220, extension 1117.