Seventy recruits were part of the Suffolk County Police Academy’s first-ever virtual graduation ceremony in front of family and friends May 8.
The 178th class of officers joining department frontlines includes six recruits for outside and associated agencies — Daniel Arocho, Connor Drost, and Frank Lapocca will be working for the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office; Tyler Gilbride was hired by the East Hampton Town Police Department; and Olivia Barszczewski and Darren Hinderliter, the Southold Town Police Department.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart presided over the ceremony, which was live-streamed on Facebook.
“I want to thank all of the officers and members of the Suffolk County Police Department for what they do for us each and every day,” Bellone said. “This is not the way that we expect to be gathering, of course, but I’m very glad today that we are able to do this ceremony, gathering together to celebrate this achievement. We know the way that we operate and move and do things in our community, and our society has been turned upside down in many ways over the last couple of months as we respond to this global pandemic.”
Nearly 60 percent of the graduates have previous law enforcement experience. Of the 70 recruits, 50 are white men, seven white women, 10 Hispanic men, two Hispanic women, and one Asian man, according to the department. This class had no African Americans.
The group completed 30 weeks of academy training, which began October 21, 2019, and received more than 1000 hours of instruction on topics including law, emergency medical training, domestic violence, mental illness, cultural diversity, and terrorism. They began their field training this week.
“It is a grueling experience in many ways — they put you to the test, without question — but they are preparing you for what is ahead, and that is joining what is one of the greatest law enforcement agencies anywhere in this world,” Bellone said, adding a number of members also served in the military. “To those who served — as we recognize today, Victory in Europe Day — you are part of that legacy of service to our country. As our military protects us around the world, it is the men and women of this police department who protect us here at home.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic the recruits supported others who are fighting the novel coronavirus around the clock. They delivered food to emergency room staff at Stony Brook University Hospital a week before graduating to show their support and thank workers for their dedication to public health.
“I think it’s fair to say that none of us expected to find ourselves in the situation we are in today. Nevertheless, as a department, we adapt to any challenge,” Hart said. “These are anything but normal conditions. I appreciate your commitment. This noble profession is not an easy one.”
She highlighted the national importance of the work the officers will be doing, especially amid the COVID-19 crisis, and thanked them for taking this first-assignment fight head-on.
“As law enforcement officers, you will undoubtedly bear witness to horrific moments within the human experience,” Hart said. “Many of you will be first on-scene to initiate CPR and provide life-saving measures to gunshot victims. You will provide comfort and security to those broken and injured. You will protect the weak from domestic violence, and shield children from unspeakable harm. You will be a strong shoulder, and a listening ear to our aging elderly population. There is anxiety and uncertainty, and our residents will look to you for guidance. You will be a voice of calm and reassurance as we work through this crisis together. You are prepared to answer the call. Welcome to your moment.”
During the live stream comments poured in from family, friends, and others who just wanted to thank the recruits for their hard work and dedication — both to this point and for what lies ahead.
“Very proud of you all,” Marilyn Untener wrote. “Stay safe.”
“This is the best police force in the United States,” William Hempworth said. “God bless you and your family.”
“Stay safe brother and sisters,” Nancy Dougherty said. “It’s a great job.”
Bellone reiterated how a police officer’s job is unlike any other.
“This is a job where you literally, on a daily basis, are going into a world of unknowns,” he said. “You do not know what you will face when you walk outside that door, but you’re willing to accept risks, and have your safety put at risk in order to protect others in the community — people you don’t even know. That is an extraordinary act of public service.”