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Honoring Vermont's top troopers

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It's an annual tradition-- the Vermont State Police Awards ceremony at the Statehouse.

Seventeen troopers were promoted, six dispatchers and administrators were promoted, and dozens of others honored. Like dispatcher Janine Lamarche, who kept a man who'd doused himself in gasoline talking for 47 minutes to prevent him from lighting himself on fire. And the troopers, local police and prosecutors behind Operation County Strike in Bennington County in January, the largest drug arrest sweep in Vermont history.

But this yearly celebration also marks the end of a tough year for the green and gold, a year that earned the Col Tom L'Esperance an unexpected Public Safety Commissioner's award.

"I was surprised," L'Esperance said. "Clearly the award goes to the men and women that work with me."

Vt. Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn highlighted the challenges of steering the ship when a sergeant was caught padding his time sheet, swindling the state out of $200,000.

"There are many ways to deal with something like that, but the way that was chosen was with transparency, candor, honesty," Flynn said.

"We knew we would be tested," L'Esperance said. "We got on it right away. Put it right out there and within three days he was in front of a judge."

L'Esperance says admitting the failure and making changes to prevent another helps rebuild public trust.

"It's the backbone of policing," L'Esperance said. "If we don't have the trust of the public, then we're hurting."

The wake of Jim Deeghan's arrest saw demotions for some managers, changes to payroll policies and a new law allowing judges to deny pensions to state employees convicted of financial crimes.

Reporter Kristin Kelly: Do you think the state has done enough to ensure that this kind of thing will not happen again?

Keith Flynn: I certainly hope so. Whenever someone has the opportunity and will to commit a crime, it's hard to say if any law will prohibit that. But certainly there have been good steps taken.

Former Sgt. Jim Deeghan is serving two years in jail as part of a plea deal.

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