During a recognition and promotional ceremony Tuesday, Col. Rick Rathbun, Warwick’s new police chief, said he looks forward to working with Warwick citizens and businesses “to address quality of life issues and establishing a strong sense of partnership and community engagement with the police department.”
Rathbun opened ceremonies at the Robert J. Shapiro Center for the Arts at Toll Gate High School by recognizing the work of his predecessor, Col. Stephen McCartney, who retired after leading the department for 20 years. Likewise, Mayor Joseph Solomon recognized McCartney for leading the department “with honor and distinction.”
Rathbun said “policing today entails more challenges and obstacles then ever before in our profession.” He cited strained police community relations, the opioid epidemic and the “mental health issues and their associated impact on our services, along with social media and technology advancements all require officers to be better trained, prepared and equipped to perform their jobs.”
“Gone are the days when we can simply respond by moving from call to call,” he continued. “We must get out of our cars and back into the neighborhoods, actively engage with our community to solve problems and commit to partnering with citizens and businesses using high impact community policing practices.”
Solomon cited Rathbun’s experience and credentials, saying he knows the new chief “will carry the department’s proud legacy and tradition forward.”
Solomon noted that before joining Warwick Police 24 years ago, Rathbun was a member of the U.S. Air Force. As for his time with the department, Solomon said Rathbun has been awarded six second-class commendations, five third-class commendations, 21 recognition ribbons and an honorable service recognition. He was honored with the American Legion Outstanding Public Service Award.
Solomon first met Rathbun when he was a beat officer covering Conimicut and Ward 4, where the future mayor was then councilman. After stepping into the role of mayor following the resignation of Scott Avedisian to lead the Rhode Island Transit Authority last May, Solomon said he was looking for someone as director of the city’s emergency management agency and Rathbun was the only person with the necessary qualifications to fill the role.
“He met and exceeded my expectations in this position, helping to lead the community both through natural weather events and the months of disruption caused by a collapsed pipe on Sandy Lane,” the mayor said.
“He has the experience and the enthusiasm it takes to continue to ensure that Warwick’s police force remains one of the most professional, dedicated and respected in the region,” Solomon added.
Rathbun reflected on his 24 years with the department and the relationships he has developed.
“I have always been blessed, and I have never been bored. This job has always been a calling for me and it remains even more so today,” he said.
The following are brief descriptions of the officers whose promotions were celebrated during the ceremony:
Sgt. Matthew Higgins, who was pinned by his wife, Krystal, and daughters, Layla and Addie, is a seven-year veteran of the department. He has served in the Patrol and Detective divisions, and worked on the team that made an arrested in the 2013 City Park murder case. He has additionally served as a field training officer, SWAT medic, a member of the crisis response team and instructor at the Municipal Police Academy. He received his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Salve Regina University and is pursuing a master’s degree from Roger Williams University.
Detective Brian Murray, who was handed his shield by his daughter, Kierstin Murray, is a 17-year veteran of the department. He previously spent four years as a member of the Tiverton Police Department. Most recently, he served as a first-class patrolman on the day shift in Warwick’s Patrol Division. He received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Salve Regina University and a master’s degree in criminal justice from Anna Maria College.
Detective Joseph DeDonato, who was pinned by his wife, Paula, daughter, Christina, and son, Joseph, is a 22-year veteran of the department. Prior to his promotion, he spent his entire career in the department’s Patrol Division. He is one of the longest serving field training officers in the department’s history. He received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Roger Williams University.
Lt. William DeFeo Jr., who was pinned by his father, former Warwick police chief William DeFeo Sr., is a 21-year veteran of the department. He has served in the Patrol, Community Services and Administrative Services divisions, and a member of the Community Policing Unit, where he spent six years as a patrolman and sergeant. As a member of the Community Policing Unit, he successfully re-started the Police Explorers program. He earned the Rhode Island Juvenile Officer Award in 2005. He also played a key role in bringing the RadKids program to Warwick. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Rhode Island College and a master’s degree in administration of justice and homeland security from Salve Regina University. He will be assigned to the Patrol Division as the second shift lieutenant.
Lt. Stephanie Giblin, who was pinned by her mother, Kathleen Piccirillo, is a 22-year veteran of the department. She has served in the Patrol and Detective divisions as a field training officer, field training supervisor and on-call task force office for homeland security investigations. She received a bachelor’s degree in political science and criminal justice from Seton Hall University and a master’s degree in criminal justice administration from Roger Williams University. She will be assigned to the Patrol Division as the third shift lieutenant.
Maj. Michael Gilbert, who was pinned by his mother, Maureen, and his father, Frederick, is a 24-year veteran of the department. He has served in the Uniform Patrol, Detective, Community Services and Prosecution divisions. Most recently, he served as officer in charge of the Professional Standards Division. He also served on the department’s SWAT team for 10 years and was its squad leader. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Miami. He has two daughters, Olivia and Samantha. He will take on the role of Operations Bureau commander.
Capt. Michael Lima, who was pinned by his wife, Malissa, and sons, Tyler and Ryden, is a 15-year veteran of the department. He previously served as a police officer in Somersworth, New Hampshire, where he rose to the rank of detective. He has served in the Warwick department’s Patrol and Community Services divisions, serving as a field training officer, field training sergeant, officer in charge of the field training program and, most recently, as community outreach liaison and social media coordinator. He is also an instructor at the Municipal Police Academy. He has been a member of the department’s crisis negotiation team for seven years, and has served as its team leader for the past 3½ years. He received a degree in sociology from the University of New Hampshire. He will take on the role of officer in charge of the Patrol Division’s second shift.
Sgt. Christopher Lo, who was pinned by his wife, Diana, is a seven-year veteran of the department. He spent the past two years in the Detective Division and the previous five years in the Patrol Division, where he served as a field training officer and member of the patrol rifle team. He received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Rhode Island College.
Maj. Lori Michailides, who was pinned by Sgt. James Michailides, is an 18-year veteran of the department. She has served in the Patrol and Administrative Services divisions, as the department’s grant writer, and most recently as officer in charge of the Prosecution Division. She has also served on the Accident Review Committee and been an FTO Supervisor. She received a bachelor’s degree in human sciences and services from the University of Rhode Island, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Roger Williams University, a master’s degree in criminal justice from Boston University and a Juris Doctorate from New England Law Boston. She has been admitted to the State and Federal Bars in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. She and her husband have two children, Sara and Sean.
Capt. Timothy Marchall, who was pinned by his wife, Officer Jill Marshall, and their three children, Grace, Adelia and Jesse, is an 18-year veteran of the department. He has served in the Patrol, Community Services and Professional Standards divisions. He served as a member of the state of Rhode Island’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Tactical Team and as commander of the department’s SWAT team. He is a veteran of the Rhode Island Army National Guard, having deployed to Afghanistan in 2011-12. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island.
Commander Mark Ullucci, who was pinned by his wife, Sylvia, and their two daughters, Audrina and Sabrina, is an 18-year veteran of the department. He has served as office in charge of the Patrol, Administrative Services and Professional Standards divisions. Most recently, he served as Operations Bureau commander. He has also served as SWAT team leader and overseen the department’s Honor Guard. He is an instructor at the Municipal Police Academy and teaches law enforcement training classes at Roger Williams University. He served in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve and in 2007 was deployed to the Northern Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He will soon receive a master’s degree in administration of justice from Salve Regina University. He will serve as deputy chief and the department’s executive office.
Detective Christian Vargas, who was given his shield by his wife, Lammis, is a nine-year veteran of the department. Most recently, he served as first class patrolman in the Patrol Division. He is a member of the Honor Guard, crisis negotiation team and field officer training program. He served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003-04 and was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army Reserve. He received a bachelor’s degree in political science and public administration from Rhode Island College.