by Michael J. Freedman
Associate Director of Public Relations and Manager of Online Content
Call it an early Christmas present.
Fourteen brave men and women unwrapped certificates of completion Friday afternoon, as the Niagara County Law Enforcement Academy held its 54th graduation ceremony - its third on the campus of Niagara University - in NU's Castellani Art Museum.
Following an invocation by the Rev. John Gouldrick, C.M., NU's assistant vice president for mission, NCLEA class president Daniel Barrancotta spoke of what led him to pursue a career in law enforcement.
It wasn't necessarily that his father, David, is a lieutenant in the Lockport Police Department. Rather, it resulted from a ride-along that he took part in, specifically a response call to a woman suffering from a panic attack. As the officers assisted the woman, Barrancotta was struck by the helpless expressions of her husband and son. That, Barrancotta said, is when he decided to become an officer of the law.
"At that moment, I fully realized that people call the police when they are in desperate need of help, when they've exhausted all of their options and they don't know what to do," he explained. "This profession is like any other. We run to chaos when everyone else is running away. I wanted to help people."
U.S. Attorney William Hochul Jr. expanded on the concept of heroism during his keynote address, pointing to the responsibility that the graduates will have in preventing tragedies like the one that occurred last week in Newtown, Conn.
"These men and women are about to pledge their oaths, their honors and their careers to make Western New York a better place, and I don't think it's ever been more challenging," said Hochul, a Buffalo native. "Fortunately, this academy has provided them with the tools to protect and serve us. Now, they will move on to a lifetime of service, always wearing the badge with honor, integrity and impeccable honesty."
Following Hochul's speech, NCLEA co-directors Sgt. Jill Herrington and Officer Nicholas Ligammari presented diplomas to:
Daniel Barrancotta, Lockport Police Dept.
Nicholas Conde, pre-employment recruit
Joseph A. Corona, Genesee County Sheriff's Office
Felicia Ann DeGroot, pre-employment recruit
Judith Dolan, Niagara Falls Police Dept.
Ryan J. Dziura, North Tonawanda Police Dept.
Andrew Johnson, Lockport Police Dept.
Chief John Palillo, Attica Police Dept.
Christopher Pino, Niagara County Sheriff's Office
Jason R. Price, pre-employment recruit
Nicholas M. Redenbach, pre-employment recruit
Robert Rougeux, pre-employment recruit
Joel Smith, Niagara Falls Police Dept.
Jeffrey Vorholzer, pre-employment recruit
The NCLEA, Niagara County's only approved training program for law enforcement officers, began holding classes at NU on Feb. 28, 2011, making Niagara the only four-year, private college in New York to host a full-time police academy.
The academy curriculum offers basic courses for police and corrections officers, including firearm instruction, civilian dispatch training, DWI detection, accident investigation, radar operation, TASER use and fingerprinting as well as seminars on developing topics such as homeland security.
Coordination of the program on Niagara's campus is undertaken by the university's Office of Continuing Education and criminal justice department.
Sheriff James R. Voutour briefly interrupted Friday's program to request a standing ovation for Niagara Falls Police Superintendent John R. Chella, who will retire Dec. 28 after 42 years of service.
Dr. Timothy Downs, Niagara's vice president for academic affairs, presented the class's Physical Fitness Award to Corona; the Jeffrey A. Incardona Memorial Award to Pino; and the Joseph E. Steblein Memorial Award to DeGroot. Barrancotta received the Academic, Top Gun and Sgt. Jeff Juron Defensive Tactics awards, but repeatedly referenced the teamwork required to complete the academy's rigorous training program.
"At times, we all excelled and, at times, we all struggled, but we stuck together through it all. I'm so proud of the way we stayed strong," he said.
For more information about the Niagara County Law Enforcement Academy, call 716.286.8759 or email [email protected].