Courts & Corrections

UPDATED: Rutland firefighter denies impersonating police officer

Brent Garrow
Brent M. Garrow, a Rutland firefighter, appears in Rutland Superior Court on Thursday to face a charge of impersonating a police officer. Pool photo by Robert L. Layman/for the Rutland Herald

(This story was updated Aug. 24, 2017, at 8:40 p.m.)

RUTLAND — A Rutland firefighter is accused of falsely identifying himself as a police officer when he was pulled over for speeding.

He got a warning for the speeding, but is now facing a criminal charge for allegedly impersonating an officer.

Brent M. Garrow, 31, of Rutland Town, pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charge Thursday afternoon in Rutland Superior Court. The charge carries a possible maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $500 fine.

He was released on conditions, including that he turn in a police badge he had while working in the Pittsford Police Department as a part-time officer. He was later decertified in June 2016 for failing to keep up with training requirements, according to court records.

Sabina Smiechowski, Garrow’s attorney, declined to comment after Thursday’s hearing.

Garrow had returned to work at the city Fire Department in April after a nearly two-year medical leave that included a kidney transplant.

The city’s attorney, Matthew Bloomer, and interim Fire Chief William Lovett on Thursday referred questions about the matter to Mayor David Allaire.

David Allaire
David Allaire, mayor of Rutland. File photo by Erin Mansfield/VTDigger​
Allaire said Thursday afternoon that there has been no change in Garrow’s status as a city employee. Asked if that unchanged status meant Garrow is working his regular hours, the mayor responded, “Whatever the normal course of business is.”

Garrow was pulled over driving a 2005 BMW 325 on Aug. 12 around 1:30 p.m. on Route 7 in Clarendon, Trooper Jonathan Hall of the Vermont State Police wrote in an affidavit filed Thursday.

The trooper wrote that he was running radar in the U-turn portion of the highway while in an unmarked cruiser. The radar clocked Garrow at 73 mph in a 55-mph zone, Hall wrote.

Hall said he pulled Garrow over just south of a rest area on Route 7 and asked for his identification. “Garrow had his wallet open and the officer said he saw a silver badge with ‘Police Department’ on it,” the affidavit stated.

“I asked Garrow who he worked for and he advised Pittsford,” Hall wrote. “While Garrow was grabbing his identification, I was able to see the rest of the badge, and identified it as a Pittsford Police Department badge.”

The trooper wrote that Garrow also told him he worked for the Rutland City Fire Department. Hall added that he warned Garrow for the speeding violation.

However, Hall wrote, he later learned Garrow wasn’t a member of the Pittsford Police Department at the time of the traffic stop and had been decertified.

Garrow lost his certification as a part-time police officer in the state June 14, 2016, according to court records, for failing to complete the needed training hours to remain certified in 2015 and 2016.

He began his medical leave from the Rutland City Fire Department around September 2015 as he awaited and eventually underwent a kidney transplant. He didn’t return from that medical leave until this year in April.

Garrow’s decertification was “totally around the lack of the in-service training hours” that he was supposed to have and his failure to complete them despite being given time to do so, Brandon Police Chief Christopher Brickell, who chairs the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council, said Thursday.

“I do know that (Garrow) was set for a decertification hearing in March of 2016 and the council voted at that time to postpone that until our next meeting for reasons brought to our attention regarding medical issues,” Brickell added.

Pittsford Police Chief Michael Warfle also submitted an affidavit in the case, saying that on Aug. 5, 2015, Garrow had been placed on paid administrative leave “for information of unlawful and improper conduct.”

That matter, the chief added, was turned over to the Vermont State Police for an internal investigation.

In March 2016, Warfle’s affidavit stated, “it was found through investigation” that Garrow was “untruthful” about a motor vehicle incident involving him on Route 7 in Brandon while on duty.

“Due to this untruthfulness, he was then placed on a 6 month suspension from the Pittsford Police Department,” Warfle’s affidavit stated. “At that time keys and police identification were taken. Brent Garrow never turned in his badge due to the fact that he had purchased it with his own money.”

Effective June 16, 2016, the date of his decertification, Garrow was “no longer employed or part of the Pittsford Police Department,” Warfle wrote in his affidavit.

The Pittsford police chief did add that about two months ago he received a text message from Vermont State Police Sgt. Douglas Norton asking if Garrow still worked for the Pittsford police.

Warfle wrote that he told Norton that Garrow hadn’t been a member of the department for some time. Warfle added that he never heard back from Norton.

Warfle could not be reached for comment.

VTDigger is awaiting a response to a public record request made Thursday seeking “any and all” video or audio from the state Department of Public Safety of Garrow’s traffic stop in Clarendon.

Neither Hall of the Vermont State Police nor his supervisor in the Rutland barracks, Lt. Michael Studin, could be reached Thursday for comment.

Garrow’s status with the Rutland City Fire Department became an issue during the Rutland mayoral campaign this year. Shortly before Town Meeting Day a post on his Facebook page alleged that the city wouldn’t let him return to work even though he was cleared by a physician.

Then-Mayor Christopher Louras denied that was the case in his own online posting, in a letter addressed to Garrow.

Bad blood between Louras and firefighters was cited by many as a factor in Louras’ loss in the mayoral race, in addition to his support of a plan to resettle refugees from Syria and Iraq in the city.

Louras’ handling of a proposal to restructure the Fire Department drew opposition from firefighters and members of the Board of Aldermen. The firefighters union backed Allaire — then an alderman — in his successful bid for mayor.

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