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Police Academy Graduates Report For Duty

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There are additional police officers patrolling in two western Massachusetts cities now following a police academy graduation. 

Thirty-one men and women marched smartly forward to the front of an auditorium, swore an oath to become police officers, and then one-by-one stepped on stage to have badges pinned to their chests.  Proud relatives, friends, and veteran police officers in the auditorium took pictures, recorded videos, and cheered.

Twenty-one of the rookie patrolmen are on the Springfield police force and eight have joined the Chicopee Police Department.  They graduated Friday from a police academy following six months of what was described as rigorous physical and mental training.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno urged the new officers to wear their badges with “honor, integrity, and courage.”

 Sarno has been able to fund for additional police officers in his annual city budget for two consecutive years, and now for the first time since the late 1990s, the number of uniformed officers in Springfield tops 400.

 Commissioner John Barbieri said more cops on patrol is one of the changes he promised to make when he took command of the Springfield Police Dept. last year.

"I am excited," said Barbieri. " With the MGM casino coming and other changes in the Metro area, I am looking forward to having officers on foot patrol and posts in that area on a regular basis. Experience has shown that if you own a section of territory you are more likely to pay attention to the little things and resolve them ."

A special emphasis in this police academy training was avoiding the use of deadly force.

" The key is communication, and when communication fails that is when physical altercations sometimes begin," explained Barbieri.

During the six months the new police officers were in training, 60 law enforcement officers across the country died in the line of duty.  Nichole Devlin, the academy class president, and now a Chicopee Police officer, said the danger did not deter her from a career she said she’s wanted since high school.

" It is part of putting on the badge and you know that going into law enforcement,"  Devlin said during an interview after the graduation ceremony.

Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos welcomed the eight new officers to his city’s police force.

" Public safety today involves a number of tools, obviously manpower is the most essential," said Kos.

The Chicopee City Council, at the mayor’s urging, recently approved $700,000 for a special public safety account to combat gangs that police say are battling over drug trafficking and territory.

The latest FBI Uniform Crime Report released earlier this month shows violent crime in Springfield dropped 1 percent from 2013-2014, and property crime, which includes burglaries and car thefts, was down 17 percent.

Chicopee reported a 22 percent decline in the number of reported violent crimes, and property crimes fell by 6 percent.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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