The Niagara County Law Enforcement Academy graduated its 60th class during a ceremony held Dec. 18 at Niagara University's Castellani Art Museum.
Thomas A. Beilein, chairman of the New York State Commission of Correction, was the ceremony's keynote speaker. He was introduced by his successor as Niagara County sheriff, James R. Voutour, who called Beilein "one of the most outstanding law enforcement personnel I've ever met."
Voutour also recognized Lockport Police Chief Larry Eggert, who will retire Dec. 30 after 36 years with the department.
During his 10-minute presentation, Beilein imparted words of wisdom on the new graduates, gleaned from more than 45 years in law enforcement, including 14 as sheriff of Niagara County, the longest tenure in county history.
"Serve your community with all the pride you can muster, and recognize that so many facets of your commitment to the law enforcement profession call for being wonderful neighbors within your community," Beilein said. "It's not right to do something just because everyone else is doing it. And it's not wrong to do something that nobody else is doing. Follow your moral compass."
Following Beilein's remarks, NCLEA co-directors Lt. Aaron Schultz and Det. John Faso presented diplomas to this semester's graduates:
Diehl, the class president, congratulated her classmates and reflected on several of the memorable occurrences that took place during their 20 weeks of law enforcement training. She concluded by offering her thoughts on how the graduates, newly minted community leaders, should conduct themselves as officers of the law.
"Leadership means not just doing things right, but doing the right thing," Diehl said. "I urge you to find ways not just to make the grade, but to make a difference. People look up to you, respond to you and you have influence - so use it. Find ways to be examples in your communities and at your stations. Simply put, I urge all of you to do well by doing good. Don't just be great officers, be great people."
Several Niagara University administrators were in attendance at the graduation ceremony, including the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president, and Dr. Debra Colley, executive vice president. In his closing remarks, Maher correlated the calling to the priesthood with that to the law enforcement "vocation."
Maher said that, often, when priests are asked why they responded to the calling to serve God, they say it's because the priesthood has provided them with a purpose-driven life - one that entails a mission, purpose and meaning.
"The observation is that the priests are happy, that they like being part of a community, a family, an atmosphere that isn't simply task-oriented," he said. "As you cadets graduate and you embark on a career in law enforcement, I, like Commissioner Beilein, implore you to think about the choice you've made, not simply as a job, but as a calling - as a way of life."
The NCLEA is now in its fourth year at Niagara University, making NU the only four-year, private college in New York to host a full-time police academy.
Coordination of the program on Niagara's campus is undertaken by the university's office of continuing education and criminal justice department.
Applications for the Niagara County Law Enforcement Academy's next class, which begins Feb. 1, are now being accepted. For more information, call 716-286-8759 or email [email protected].