On December 20, 2023

Sheriff spotlights department expansion at rotary homecoming 


By Glenn Heitsmith 

Rotarians Tom Rice, president, and Melanie Gulde, who runs the Divided Sky Recovery Retreat in Ludlow, with County Sheriff Ryan Palmer. 



By Glenn Heitsmith

Sheriff Ryan Palmer recently joined Rotarians at DJ’s Restaurant in Ludlow. No arrests were made. No speeding tickets were issued. And the meal was typical at DJ’s: hot and filling. 

The Dec. 5 luncheon marked a sentimental homecoming for the former Ludlow cop who launched his successful bid for county sheriff at a Rotary meeting in 2022.

Palmer, who took office in February, detailed a busy first year filing campaign promises to “change law enforcement in Vermont.” Accountability holds top billing. Officers in the field now all wear body cameras, Palmer said. And releasing video footage of arrests or encounters is common practice.

Observers noted an increased presence of county law enforcement activity, such as patrols and roadside law enforcement. Greater visibility runs consistent with department re-branding that extends to the expanding fleet of Chevy Tahoe SUVs, sporting new black paint jobs. A redesigned and enlarged uniform insignia highlights Constitution House in Windsor, recognized as the birthplace of the state of Vermont in 1790.

Palmer highlighted community involvement, school visits and other interactions with young people. This “problem solving” ranges from unsafe driving (drivers are being pulled over for traveling more than 100 mph) to assisting families with loved ones who are dealing with substance use disorders. Ludlow’s new Divided Sky Residential Recovery Retreat is an “important part of helping people get help,” he added.

Palmer said he spent “a ton of money” on officer training. Staff also must meet four times a year with a psychologist, a new requirement that also reduces the stigma of mental health issues.

In his first year on the job, Palmer has doubled the size of the sheriff’s department from 10 officers to more than 23 sworn and contractual employees. The department’s first canine officer in 20 years will soon join the force after completing training.

“Opiates and violent crimes are concerning trends,” he said. The solution could require a regional approach that combines local police departments. Meanwhile, the sheriff’s office is working hard to “make a difference.” Palmer identified the recent seizure of 19 stolen guns. He also related the story of a suspect who escaped apprehension after ramming a law enforcement vehicle.

“We hunted him for three days. It wasn’t like we weren’t going to find him — he crashed into my new car.” He’s now in custody and “three more guns were taken off the streets,” the sheriff proudly exclaimed.

Headquartered in Woodstock, the Windsor County Sheriff’s Dept. provides direct law enforcement to Barnard, Cavendish, Hartland, Plymouth, Pomfret, Reading, Rochester and Sharon. Founded in 1781, ten years before Vermont had even become a state, the sheriff’s department provides a number of other services, including paperwork on behalf of Civil, Small Claims, Probate, Family Courts and individuals.

Ludlow Rotary serves the towns of Cavendish, Ludlow, Mount Holly and Plymouth. The club meets weekly on Tuesdays for lunch at DJ’s Restaurant.

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