Richard Spirlet of Westport, who attained the rank of captain during a 36-year career with the New Bedford Police Department, died on Monday, Dec. 28 from complications of COVID-19. He was 78.

Spirlet joined the police force in 1971 and after patrolling the North End for five years, he became the department's first K-9 officer, initiating a program that still exists today.

In 1993, as a Sergeant, Spirlet started a Community Police Program and two years later received a regional award for its outreach with the public.

Spirlet later served as commander of the North End station and served as the police department's representative at New Bedford Housing Court, neighborhood events and government meetings.

During the last seven years of his career, Spirlet served as the department's Public Information Officer, handling day-to-day requests from the media and hosting a monthly television show "Behind the Badge" that aired on local cable access.

Following his retirement, Spirlet taught courses about Legal and Protective Services at Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School and Criminal Justice courses at Fisher College.

He served for six years on the Westport Board of Selectman and also hosted a weekend talk show on WBSM for five years.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by the Saunders-Dwyer Home for Funerals, 495 Park Street, New Bedford.

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