By: Theresa Gaffney
Retired Attleboro Police Chief Rick Pierce first got involved with Special Olympics in 1992, when he was part of the first group of officers to attend the Attleboro School Day Games. He is now the co-director of the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) and has attended Attleboro School Day Games every year since.
Pierce had no idea when he agreed to do the School Day Games that he was signing on to what would become one of his greatest passions. “I had heard of [the School Day Games] before, but this was the first time any police officers were going to attend,” Pierce remembered. Once he got there, however, he knew he was interested in coming back.
“I was overwhelmed by what was taking place,” he said. “I realized how excited the athletes were and how much they appreciated receiving a medal from a uniformed police officer. From that point on, I wanted to help raise awareness and help support the many individuals with intellectual disabilities through the activities and events of Special Olympics Massachusetts.”
So in 2004 when Pierce was asked to help revive the LETR program in Massachusetts, he eagerly accepted. He rose the ranks from Bristol County Coordinator to South Section Representative to the Executive Council. In 2011, the year after he retired from his position as Chief of Police in Attleboro, Pierce was selected to be one of the co-directors of the program.
In that time, Pierce has watched the LETR program grow into something that he had never dreamed it could. When they first brought back the program, LETR raised less than $1,500 for Special Olympics. In 2014, they raised over $268,000.
“I never envisioned raising that much money,” Pierce said. “When we first started, I can remember saying ‘well, this sounds great, but in reality, is it ever going to happen?’ Now, I can still see it growing even more from here.”
Surprisingly, the hardest part of the job isn’t raising the funds, said Pierce, but recruiting new officers to volunteer at events. With busy schedules, many officers are hesitant at first to volunteer any time. But once they do it once, Pierce says, “then they get hooked.” He stresses the importance of LETR not only for athletes, but for officers.
“Police officers and the LETR share a common belief that everyone has a fundamental right to be treated with respect, dignity, and acceptance,” Pierce said. “By participating in the LETR, we not only get to help raise awareness and funds for athletes, but we get to experience the impact our involvement has on these athletes and their families.”
Over the years, Pierce has collected countless memories with athletes and other officers. His most cherished memory is from his retirement party in early 2011, when twin brothers and SOMA athletes Jonathan and Kyle Titus presented him with two of their Special Olympics medals.
“As Chief of the Attleboro Police Department, many people, fellow officers, fellow chiefs, and politicians presented me with many certificates and accolades at my retirement party, but nothing meant more to me than when the Titus brothers presented me with the medals they had received competing in Special Olympics events,” said Pierce. “It was a truly special, emotional, and heart-warming moment that I will never forget.”
Chief Pierce was an Attleboro Police Officer for 32 years, and spent his last eight as the Chief of Police. He has been a key member of the LETR team for over a decade, and continues to inspire athletes and law enforcement officers around the