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Police academy grads praised
Friday, March 25, 2005
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DEERFIELD - Men and women who want to be police officers nowadays must rise to the challenges of the post-Sept. 11 era, instructor and Hadley police Sgt. Ralph Gould told police academy graduates yesterday.

"Wanting to be officers at this time in history speaks volumes about their character," Gould said to a packed auditorium at Deerfield Academy, were the audience included many officers' family members and friends.

A total of 33 men and four women graduated after 21 weeks of training in self-defense, physical fitness, tactical strategies, terrorism deterrence, criminal law, constitutional law, motor vehicle law and community policing.

They are the 39th graduating class at Western Massachusetts Criminal Justice Training Center in Agawam.

The graduates spent Dec. 22 at the foot of a memorial to slain Holyoke Police Officer John A. DiNapoli, recalled class president, Victor F. Caputo III of Northampton. Caputo is joining his hometown police force.

Dec. 22 was the fifth anniversary of DiNapoli's death by gunshot in a nighttime encounter with a drug dealer. The instructor told students not to become complacent, saying that everything they learned at the academy was aimed at keeping their names off such a memorial, Caputo said.

Wilbraham Police Chief Allen M. Stratton invoked the memory of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "Our country depends on the efforts you make to keep your community safe," he said.

West Springfield Police Chief Thomas E. Burke asked the new officers to maintain their highest principles - because the public judges police departments by their weakest links. "This is manifestly wrong and unfair, but unfortunately, it's true," he said.

As the public hears about policing problems such as racial profiling or excessive force, the gap between the community and police widens, Burke said.

That gap has widened even though violent crime has decreased dramatically and police have adopted new community policing strategies, he said. "We must do everything we can to preserve the trusting relationship with the community."

Burke also advised the officers to communicate with family and friends, rather than adopt the idea that problems should not be brought home.

After the ceremony, Belchertown's newly trained officer, Jason Krol, said he waited 12 years for the job he always wanted - police officer in his hometown. Krol put in one year on the job before attending the academy. He thought he knew what to expect, but found he was wrong.

"The academy has opened my eyes to a lot of things," he said. "There are so many things you think you know until you find out you don't know anything."

His wife, Melanie, said she was not worried about her husband being on the force. "I have faith in him," she said.
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