Learning that three Vermont State Police troopers resigned over allegations that they created fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards was disappointing and a blow to the reputation of the state’s major law enforcement agency.
Two of the troopers, Shawn Sommers and Raymond Witkowski, resigned on August 10 and the third, David Pfindel, resigned effective September 3.
The troopers are suspected of having participated in the creation of fraudulent vaccine cards – a violation of federal law.
As disheartening as this news is – several things stand out as noteworthy.
First, Sommers and Witkowski were reported by their fellow troopers who brought their concerns to their supervisors. Fellow troopers saw this behavior for what it was – unacceptable – and reported it without delay. This is good news and dispels the notion of law enforcement officers being unable or unwilling to police their own ranks. This demonstrates the ethics and high standards of those who reported the officers who resigned.
Secondly, state police leadership took immediate and appropriate action in reporting the allegations to federal law enforcement. The state police referred the matter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Burlington. An investigation by the FBI is underway.
Finally, Colonel Matthew Birmingham, director of the Vermont State Police, did not mince words about the issue and spoke honestly about its impact on the organization he leads.
“The accusations in this case involve an extraordinary level of misconduct -- a criminal violation of the law -- and I could not be more upset and disappointed,” Birmingham said. “If these allegations are proved to be true, it is reprehensible that state troopers would manipulate vaccination cards in the midst of a pandemic, when being vaccinated is one of the most important steps anyone can take to keep their community safe from COVID-19.”
“I’m embarrassed that this situation has occurred and know that it has tarnished the reputation of the Vermont State Police,” Birmingham continued. “That said, the alleged criminal conduct from these troopers does not represent the values and actions of the dedicated men and women of the Vermont State Police.”
Birmingham’s swift and honest reaction, owning this incident without defensiveness demonstrates great leadership.