LEWISTON — Cpl. Robert Ullrich of the Lewiston Police Department may be humble
about his national recognition by a federal agency, but he’s definitely
not shy about the personal mission that earned him the award.

The 14-year veteran was recently named National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year for 2009 by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

“This is really good news,” Ullrich said Thursday. “This means our kids are listening. I want to give kids the excuse NOT to drink.”

And what the county’s younger population is listening to is Ullrich’s message that underage drinking parties in Androscoggin County will likely end up busted, teens issued citations and those supplying the booze arrested.

He heads up the Androscoggin County Alcohol Enforcement Team founded in 2004 thanks to a grant from the Drug Free Communities federal program through Healthy Androscoggin County. The countywide task force includes officers from Auburn, Lewiston, Lisbon and the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office and Healthy Androscoggin.

“It reinforces all of the hard work that he has done to reduce underage drinking, not just in Lewiston but all of Androscoggin County,” said acting Lewiston Police Chief Michael J. Bussiere in a statement. “This recognition demonstrates that the Lewiston Police Department and its partner agencies . . . are at the forefront of national efforts to combat underage alcohol drinking in the United States.”

In 2007, Ullrich assumed a second important role as Maine’s first underage alcohol investigator with funding from Drug Free Communities and the Maine Office of Substance Abuse. The alcohol enforcement team coordinates to bust local teens who are drinking, and Ullrich is responsible for building a case. On the flip side of his duties, he helps prevent a lot more parties from ever taking place.

“The reality in the scheme of crime in this world is that (underage drinking) is on the lower end of crime,” Ullrich said. “But if we can reduce underage drinking and underage access to alcohol, then we can reduce our calls for service and prevent other crimes from happening.”

Teachers and principals from local schools will call Ullrich with word of rumors about upcoming parties. Ullrich meets with the rumored hosts, explains the consequences of such a party and contacts the teen’s parents. He tells two very important stories when talking about why he does what he does.

The first is a tragic tale of six young people killed in a 2006 alcohol-related Christmas Eve accident in Poland. It’s the case that sticks with him to this day. When people try to downplay the importance of investigating underage drinking, he shows them the pictures of that crash.

The second is the humorous tale of a high school student he went to see about rumors of her upcoming weekend party. Ullrich said the real lightbulb went on for the teen’s parents when he talked with them. Until then, they couldn’t understand why the girl was so upset that they were leaving a day later for their trip.

“I think it’s still settling in on me,” Ullrich said. “It truly means a lot to me, but
I’m very aware that I wouldn’t have got this award if it wasn’t for the
support of all the (police) chiefs involved.

“I’m the face of the Alcohol Enforcement Team, but there are a lot of other people that made this happen.”

Robert Ullrich of the Lewiston Police Department, working at the balloon festival carnival on Thursday evening, has been given the Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award by the National Liquor Law Enforcement Association.


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