SAUGUS — The officer who brought a K-9 unit to the Saugus Police Department nearly two decades ago has retired.
Officer Timothy Fawcett, who served the department for more than three decades, hounded former Chief Edward Felix and Lt. Mike Annesse to bring back the department’s K-9 program for years. Crime was frequent at night clubs along Route 1 and Fawcett saw how quickly crowds would disperse when State Police brought in dogs. He advocated for Saugus Police to have its own dog, and after 25 years without one, the department welcomed K-9 Beny in 2001.
The German Shepherd was trained at the Boston Police Academy in Jamaica Plain for 14 weeks by lead K-9 officer Troy Caisey. Six hours after Beny arrived home with Fawcett, he cried in his insulated kennel in the backyard. Fawcett’s wife, Debbie, felt bad for Beny and let him sleep in the basement. Three days later, Beny snuggled into the couple’s bed.
“Bringing him in with my family gave him social skills,” said Fawcett. “But he wasn’t a pet. He could turn in one instant and he was the best protector in the world.”
When Beny died in 2011, Fawcett met his new partner Bruin, a German Shepherd who served with him until he was diagnosed with cancer and died this past March.
Domenic Montano, the community events coordinator for the police union, learned that Bruin would be euthanized and organized a police escort for the dog. It included police vehicles from Saugus and surrounding communities and all the police dogs Bruin trained with on the North Shore.
News traveled overnight and, as Bruin took his final ride, residents lined the streets with their own furry friends to thank him for his service.
Children at the Oaklandvale Elementary School created handmade signs, letters, and lined the sidewalk in front of the school to wave goodbye to the K-9.
The Fawcett family didn’t know Bruin would be getting an escort. While driving though Saugus, Fawcett’s son Tyler pointed out several helicopters hovering over the town. Fawcett remembers telling his son that they were likely there for something happening on Route 1.
“When we went by the Oak, all the kids were lined up chanting ‘Bruin, Bruin,'” said Fawcett. “He heard them. As weak as he was, he stood up to look out the window.”
First grade teacher Jennifer Ricciardelli said the students knew Bruin well. Each year, she teaches a lesson on community workers and service animals. Each year, Bruin visits the school to teach the students about his job.
Bruin, Fawcett, and Michael Ricciardelli visited the Oaklandvale Elementary School the week before he died to read to children in honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday.
“The kids see him out in the community, and they know him, and they know that Officer Fawcett is approachable,” said Jennifer Ricciardelli.
This was a message Fawcett intended to send. He did the same at the Senior Center, American Legion, and many town events.
Interim Saugus Police Chief Ronald Giorgetti said Fawcett has been a model employee for his 32 years of service to the town. He is respected and well-liked within the community, he said.
“He spent a significant amount of time in the schools, interacting with the students with K-9 demonstrations,” said Giorgetti. “It’s important because it allows us (the police) an opportunity to interact with the residents and give them a better understanding of what we do and how we do it. It also helps with the younger generation to take away some of the hesitation about approaching an officer.”
Giorgetti said he has not yet made a decision about who the next K-9 officer will be or when that person will start.
Following the death of Bruin, people from across the country sent cards and letters of support. Some created plaques, blankets, drawings, and other items that the family displays in their home.
While not every day of Fawcett’s career was good — he remembers tragic accidents, a murder-suicide, and other difficult cases — he tried to approach each day of his career wtih a positive attitude.
Inspired by his father, Robert Fawcett, and his career as a Boston Police detective and the many episodes of Adam-12 he watched growing up, Fawcett said he always knew he wanted to be an officer.
“I tried to take on my father’s demeanor,” said Fawcett. “He always treated people as he wanted to be treated. I enjoyed helping people because we’re all human beings and we all make mistakes.”
At 23 years old, his lifelong dream came true. He became a reserve officer in 1983 and attended the Police Academy in 1988. Fawcett was hired by Chief Donald Peters and, over the years, served under six chiefs at two different stations.
Fawcett said he rarely wrote tickets for traffic violations and preferred to give people a second chance. Occasionally, he brought in a box of treats for other officers. The importance of such gestures of kindness was a lesson he learned from his mother, Jacqueline, who never shows up for visits empty-handed.
“Tim is one of those guys who would do anything for you — he’d go to bat for you no matter what,” said Montano.
Doing K-9 demonstrations was a big step in introducing children to police and showing them that the police are the good guys, said Montano.
“I know I’ll be going on calls for 25 plus years and people will still be asking me if I know Officer Fawcett and Bruin and I’ll say ‘I’m proud to say that I do,'” he said.