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Editorial: Troopers’ deaths serve as constant mortal reminder

Trooper Thomas Devlin, 58, of Wilmington, who graduated from the the Massachusetts State Police on Dec. 6, 1985, and remained with the department until the day that he died, on Thursday, as a result of injuries suffered when he was struck by a car while working over two years ago. Photo courtesy Massachusetts State Police.
Trooper Thomas Devlin, 58, of Wilmington, who graduated from the the Massachusetts State Police on Dec. 6, 1985, and remained with the department until the day that he died, on Thursday, as a result of injuries suffered when he was struck by a car while working over two years ago. Photo courtesy Massachusetts State Police.
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No matter the circumstances or length of service, the emotional pain suffered with the loss of a loved one or colleague is dispensed in equal measure.

That’s what the families and friends of State Police Troopers Thomas Devlin and Tamar Bucci must feel and continue to bear.

In Trooper Devlin’s case, some long-awaited closure for his family occurred Monday, when the Haverhill man found guilty days earlier of negligent operation in connection with his death was sentenced in Lowell District Court to 18 months in prison.

A jury found that Kevin Francis was driving negligently when he struck Trooper Devlin — who had stopped another vehicle by the side on Route 3 in Billerica — in July of 2018.

Over the years, Devlin, a Wilmington resident and married father of four, underwent multiple surgeries related to his injuries from the crash. He died on Sept. 3, 2020, at age 58, after serving more than 35 years in the State Police.

Unlike Devlin, the longtime veteran, State Trooper Tamar Bucci was struck down just 20 months into her law-enforcement career.

Trooper Bucci was killed the night of March 4 — two days after her 34th birthday — when a tanker truck struck her cruiser as she pulled over to help a driver stopped on the side of Interstate 93 in Stoneham, officials said.

She became the 22nd Massachusetts State Trooper to die in the line of duty.

Raised in Andover, the Andover High graduate matriculated at Middlesex Community College. In May 2020, Bucci graduated from the State Police Academy, an accomplishment that left her beaming with pride, her family remembered in her obituary.

Bucci drew people in with a “magnetic energy” and would make others feel at ease with a “radiating smile and playful sense of humor,” her obituary stated.

The morning after she was killed, Patrick McNamara, vice president of the State Police Association of Massachusetts, said, “Trooper Bucci is not just a coworker to us. She is our sister and we are heartbroken by this devastating loss to our membership.”

Nancy Devlin, Trooper Devlin’s wife, described Friday’s guilty verdict as a “relief” and “an answer to their prayers.” She also described the last four years for the family as “horrific.”

“We’ll never be able to move on from this, but we are hoping to be able to move forward with the incredible memories that we have of him,” she said.

“His injuries were devastatingly severe,” Nancy Devlin said of her husband’s ordeal. “He was deemed permanently disabled and this is a 35-year veteran. In one day that all changed because somebody did not pay attention and did not move over, and it destroyed our lives.”

The tanker truck driver involved in the crash that killed Trooper Bucci hasn’t been charged in connection with her death, but a State Police official confirmed the Methuen man’s driver’s license and commercial license have been suspended.

State Police said he was an employee of PJ Murphy Transportation, a Haverhill company.

The State Police have certainly accumulated plenty of bad press over the past several months, most of it self-inflicted.

Exaggerated overtime and phantom hours not worked by an unscrupulous few have impugned the reputations of the majority of troopers who risk their lives every day.

Even when conducting routine duties — as these two tragic examples attest.

We believe Trooper Bucci tried to erase that State Police stain through the professionalism she exhibited every day she donned that uniform.

While the conduct of law enforcement in general remains under a microscope, let’s remember that they’re among the select few whose mortality comes with the territory.

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