Vermont State Police Barracks

Cruisers parked at the Vermont State Police barracks in Shaftsbury.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.  

Three Vermont State Police troopers, all with connections to the Shaftsbury barracks, have resigned, as state and federal officials investigate allegations that they falsified COVID-19 vaccine cards — allegations that have embarrassed and disappointed VSP’s leadership.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the Vermont Department of Public Safety announced that Shawn Sommers and Raymond Witkowski submitted their resignations Aug. 10, and David Pfindel resigned effective Sept. 3.

According to a statement from the department, all three men “are suspected of having varying roles in the creation of fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards, which may be a violation of federal law.”

The incident, reported to supervisors by other troopers, were immediately reported to federal law enforcement authorities, the statement said.

Information about the allegations was made public Tuesday, nearly a full month after Sommers and Witkowski resigned. According to the statement, because state police referred the matter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Burlington, state police were unable to release information about the incident before Tuesday. An FBI investigation into the matter continues, the statement said.

“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,” Vermont State Police Director Col. Matthew T. Birmingham said in the statement. “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 added. “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.”

According to the statement, Sommers and Witkowski resigned a day after another trooper brought the matter to attention of supervisors. Pfindel resigned effective Sept. 3, after additional investigation by the Department of Public Safety, the statement said.

Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling said based on a preliminary review, “we do not believe there is anything more the state police could have done to prevent this from occurring.”

“As soon as other troopers became aware of this situation, they raised the allegations internally, and commanders took swift and decisive action to hold these individuals accountable and report this matter to federal authorities,” Schirling said in the statement.

According to the statement, Sommers and Witkowski both joined the Vermont State Police in July 2016 and graduated from the State Police Academy in January 2017. Sommers was assigned to the Rutland Barracks until October 2017, when he transferred to Shaftsbury, and transferred back to Rutland last December.

Pfindel was hired in January 2014, and he transferred from St. Albans to Shaftsbury in February 2016. He became a detective with the Bureau of Criminal Investigations in July 2016, and returned to work as a road trooper in April 2020, the statement said.

Greg Sukiennik covers government and politics for Vermont News & Media. Reach him at gsukiennik@benningtonbanner.com.


TALK TO US

If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us.
We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.