Officer Harold L. Vitale – Service Before Self

Harold Vitale

Harold Vitale
Patrolman, Saugus (MA) Police Department

We are the surviving five brothers of Harold who grew up the middle child in a large, close knit Italian family of six boys, two girls, our parents and our grandmother. Growing up in Revere, MA in a tiny New England-style house with one bedroom for our two late sisters and our grandmother, our parent’s bedroom, the six boys learned to adjust to sleeping in the remaining two bedrooms, sharing only one bathroom. Our memory of Harold is that he loved cars, hated school and loved pretty girls and mostly loved his Italian family and our mother’s cooking. He also loved wearing a uniform and served in the Army where he did a tour of duty at a base in Germany where he quickly learned to master repairing equipment in particular jeeps, trucks and cars. He returned home and opened his own service garage. He left that business to join the Saugus Police for job security and a steady paycheck.

Harold Vitale with his pride and joy, his family, celebrating his late mother's 70th Birthday just days before she passed away.
Harold Vitale with his pride and joy, his family, celebrating his late mother’s 70th Birthday just days before she passed away.

On the job, he met his wife Eileen while working one of his regular overtime details at a world famous restaurant, the Hilltop Steakhouse. She had three children that he quickly adopted. They loved him. He earned a reputation of being a tough but fair cop and had a confidence like no other in whatever situation confronted him. He coined the phrase, “Vitale Pride.” He lived it every day. He was on the job 14 years. Several years before his death, he saved his partner’s life – when faced with a situation, he had to shoot a suspect while watching his partner be dragged in a sure-death situation. His shot struck and paralyzed the suspect. He was sued for excessive use of force, but was found not guilty while the Town of Saugus in the meantime was sanctioned with a monetary award to the suspect.

Ironically, several years later, Harold was on patrol and was attempting to make an arrest. He found the suspect to be delinquent on several prior charges including several driving to endanger and evading arrests. He had an outstanding warrant. On June 18, 1985, four days after his 42nd birthday and having just returned from a family vacation, he was back at work, making an arrest an hour into his first shift. A 19-year-old suspect with prior charges decided to flee trapping Harold on his car door and dragged him to his death. Due to new protocols and a dangerous intersection, his partner could not shoot, so Harold died in the very same way he saved someone’s life. His killer got manslaughter due to a grave error made by the Judge presiding over the trial, was sentenced to 18-20 years, served 9 and was released.

In 1992, our family decided to form a charity in his name to honor his sacrifice. Since 1992, we have raised almost $2 million and have been one of the largest non-corporate sponsors to the National Memorial and the Concerns of Police Survivors making grants to them totaling over $500,000. We have awarded over 120 scholarships totaling over $120,000.

We think about Harold every day, we talk about him often, and we miss him dearly. We are thankful Mom and Dad went before you, because they could never have dealt with the pain of losing you. We are working hard at maintaining “Vitale Pride,” and we know we will never be able to do it as well you did. Rest in peace Harold. You were something special.

When God took you in his arms he got a special soldier to patrol the streets of heaven. We miss you. We love you.

Love, your brothers, your wife, your children and the grandchildren you never met.

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