NORWICH – An eight year veteran with the Norwich Police Department has accepted a position with the Syracuse Police Department and is to be sworn in this morning, Wednesday, Aug. 10.
Thomas Miller was first sworn in with the NPD Oct. 26, 2008. Prior to his career with the NPD, Miller worked with the New Berlin Police Department. For a time, he worked both departments.
“I have enjoyed working with the Norwich community so much,” said Miller Wednesday morning. “I am forever grateful for the opportunity I had to work for the Norwich Police, and for the support I have had from Chief Rodney Marsh.”
Throughout his tenure in the community, Miller and his K9 Nitro hosted dozens of community events, hospital visits and demonstrations for children.
‘Nitro Day’ took place in 2015, when Miller and Nitro visited Houndstooth Bakery and Boutique in Sidney for an event to give back to the community. The bakery has donated all of Nitro’s food.
Miller bought Nitro as a puppy and took her to a private obedience, agility, and protection trainer in Schuyler, N.Y. For several months when she was young. After that, Miller took Nitro to the Southern Tier Canine Association in Endicott to get her certified. This is also where Nitro has to go for her yearly maintenance training. “I paid for all of it originally,” said Miller, her food included. When Vance offered to supply Nitro's sustenance, Miller was appreciative of the gesture. “I was very thankful to her,” said Miller. “And so is the department and the community.”
“It is truly amazing to see the relationship Officer Miller has with Nitro. He puts in so much of his free time to train Nitro, as Nitro is one of the top service dogs in the state,” said Cassie Vance of Houndstooth Bakery and Boutique. “I actually met Tom when he came in my shop seeking food and nutrition for his other German Shepherd. Nutrition is really important, especially for service dogs. So I ended up offering to pay for all of Nitro's food,” said Vance.
“I think the event will be good. Not so much around here, but sometimes the media – and people in general – paint police officers in a negative light. And what is really important is for the children to see how they protect you, and the work they put in, especially Tom and Nitro,” said Vance.
In 2014, Miller and Nitro visited the Unadilla Valley Central School to create a bond between the students and law enforcement.
Miller and Nitro were asked by UVCS administration to carry out a routine check of the students’ bags. More than 30 seniors signed up for the trip to the New Haven Resort for the weekend, and all students passed the inspection by Miller and Nitro.
According to UV Superintendent Robert Mackey, the presence and assistance of both Miller and Nitro was appreciated. “We’ve had a pretty strong police presence for years, and we like to take advantage of that to ensure that our students and staff are safe,” said Mackey. He added the Chenango Sheriff’s Office and New York State Police have also made a presence in the school.
“Miller and Nitro have made classroom visits, and it helps us, and Nitro,” said Mackey.
Students said they were eager to see the K9, who has done similar checks at the school in the past.
“We’ve done this a few times before,” said Miller. “The students and staff here are great.”
“Officer Miller and Nitro have been in and out of the school minimally every other month,” said Principal Frank Johnson. “The students know Nitro by name, and we absolutely welcome them into the building.”
Johnson said the visits are not uncommon and they’re often unannounced. The intent is to show students law enforcement in a favorable light.
Officer Miller said he enjoys visiting the school and bringing Nitro. “The students are our future. I try to do as much as I can within the community,” he said.
“I really enjoy working with the community and am more than pleased to assist the school whenever and wherever needed. The UV school administration and students are always a pleasure to work with,” said Miller. “It is nice to be able to reassure our community the children are safe when away from home.”
Additionally in 2014, Miller and Nitro made an appearance at Bike Night at Gilligans in Sherburne for the September 11th anniversary. Miller lit the law enforcement candle at the ceremony.
Lex Danyluk, organizer of the and combat Vietnam veteran said in a previous interview, “I think it’s good awareness for the kids and for the people in general,” he said. “Miller has a beautiful dog, and he it is great with the children. The kids loved the dog, and being able to pet her and play.”
In late 2014, Miller traveled to New York City to attend the funerals of slain NYPD officers. In a previous interview about that, Miller said, “On December 20, 2014 a tragedy hit the NYPD. Officer Rafael Ramos and Officer Wenjian Liu were ambushed while on duty in their patrol car, which resulted in the loss of both of their lives. Days later, a detail was posted for members of the Norwich Police Department interested in attending Officer Ramos funeral in New York City.”
“We were going to pay our respect to the fallen officers, their families, their department, and their city,” said Miller of he and a fellow NPD employee that made the trip on their own time.
“I will never, and I mean never forget that walk,” said Miller. “An injured NYPD Lieutenant in a wheelchair stopped me and asked for a photograph with K9 Nitro and I.” Miller explained that he was more than pleased oblige.
“Every step of the way held signs saying “Thank you police officers,” “Sorry for your loss,” and there was not one negative sign or even gesture,” Miller said.
What happened next, Miller explained, he will always remember.
“It 67th and Myrtle Street, where a voice caught my attention. A mother was pointing at Nitro to show her young child,” said Miller. “[The other NPD employee] and I stopped briefly, waved to the child and in the most unforgettable voice the child said, ‘Thank you policemen for all you do,’ once again I was speechless and did everything I could do to hold my composure.”
“I pray every police officer’s funeral I attend is the last, but I know the reality,” said Miller. “Before this experience I was proud to be a police officer, an American and a New Yorker. After this experience, I am not only proud but blessed.”
Miller stressed that the only way to make it during the hard times is together.
“United we stand, right?” added Miller. “I'm proud to serve the City of Norwich as well as every other member of my department is. Regardless of the love or even hate towards us, if you call, we will come, we will put our lives on the line for you and we only ask for one thing: your support.”
Miller offered a reminder to all, and said, “We all breathe, eat sleep and feel … just as you do.”
In 2014 Miller also helped to organize a benefit and fundraiser for an Environmental Conservation Officer who lost his two trained K9s in a house fire.
“We’re supposed to be all a community, here to help each other out and work together in times of need,” Miller said in a previous interview.
This year, Nitro received donated body armor for her safety. A bullet and stab protective vest to wear on dangerous calls.
The vest was given as a charitable donation from the nonprofit organization Vested Interest in K9s, Inc.
“Nitro and I are grateful to Vested Interest in K9s for making this donation to our department and the K9 team,” said Norwich Police K9 Officer Thomas Miller. “All officers in our department wear vests and I think it is important that the canine has the same protection that we have, as the canines are easily put in harm’s way when being deployed.”
Also in 2016, Miller made various visits to schools, hospitals and the Norwich Family YMCA for demonstrations. Teacher Kaitlin Korver said she organized the event to go along with the ‘community helpers’ theme for the class. “I think it’s important for children to understand what police officers and police dogs do in case they ever need help or are lost,” said Korver in a previous interview.
Miller said, “I really enjoyed spending time with the children in Ms. Korver’s classes. The children were very well mannered and showed a lot of interest in the K9. I think it’s a great experience for the children, myself, and the K9 to get to spend time together and also explain to the children that we’re there to help them and their families, not just ‘get the bad guys.’”
Miller said Wednesday that it was a very hard decision for him to leave the Norwich Police Department, and he will remain connected to this community that he loves forever. “Even though I’ve moved to another department, that does not change how I feel about the community I’ve served and cared for here in Norwich.”