Thirty weeks of intensive training end in graduation and certification for 24 new law enforcement officers in Ontario, Wayne, Yates and Seneca counties

CANANDAIGUA — Residents in Ontario, Wayne, Yates and Seneca counties have reason to rest a bit easier tonight.

After 30 weeks of intensive training, 24 newly certified law enforcement officers from four counties and four cities, villages and hamlets will hit the streets, equipped better than ever to protect and serve.

Monday was graduation day for students of the 2018 Finger Lakes Law Enforcement Academy Basic Training School, with a ceremony held at Canandaigua Academy.

Twenty-eight men and women began the rigorous training curriculum on Feb. 12, with 24 crossing the finish line. They represented sheriff’s departments in Ontario, Seneca, Wayne and Yates counties, and police departments in Geneva, Penn Yan, Seneca Falls and Waterloo.

Jay Bucklin of the Geneva Police Department earned top honors in the areas of defensive tactics, academic achievement, sharpshooting and highest overall achievement, as well as being voted valedictorian of his class by his classmates.

“The experience has been great,” said Bucklin. “It started out very tough the first couple of weeks, but after that we got in the groove and settled in. It was difficult, but in the end everything was worth it. I had an awesome time. We came in as individuals but left as a family.”

Over the 30-week training period, law enforcement officers dug deep into skills such as driving, defensive tactics and negotiation, medical emergency service, marksmanship, physical fitness and academics.

Awards were also given, tongue in cheek, to students who struggled more than others in driving skills — one pair actually collided while in their training vehicles, another ran over a record number of orange cones and another flew through the driving agility course with less than stellar agility.

Retiring Training Director Charles Koerner, in a more serious moment, reminded students to “take care of yourself, take care of your families and take care of each other” on the job.

Retiring Sheriff Phil Povero, training chairman of Finger Lakes Law Enforcement Academy, shared advice with graduates from his decades of experience.

“You will work nights, weekends, holidays and your children’s birthdays,” said Povero. “You will swelter wearing your bulletproof vest in the heat of summer and shiver investigating crashes in the cold of winter. You will encounter the most vulnerable and the most despicable people. You will see human beings treat each other in ways that are indescribable. Your hearts will break for crime victims.”

He told graduates they had chosen the world’s greatest profession, and warned them of the constant scrutiny to come.

“Be prepared to to be Monday morning quarterbacked by everyone on social media,” he said. “You are a role model, and your behavior is held to a higher standard. … Maintain your integrity. You will be tested, but don’t give in. Always do the right thing.”

Povero also urged students to “get out of your patrol cars and talk to the citizens you serve.”

“What are their safety concerns?” he asked. “Communicate effectively and honestly and you will earn the respect and trust of your community.”

In an unexpected twist, Povero urged graduates to “maintain a sense of humor.”

“You will be surprised how a smile and a laugh may defuse a volatile situation,” he said. “Making a victim smile may be the first step in that person’s healing process.”

Officer Jay Bucklin and his 23 classmates will take the words of their instructors and mentors to heart as they step out into public service.

“I’m hoping to do the best I can as a police officer in the city of Geneva, to serve the people I was born and raised with,” said Bucklin. “I’m hoping to give 100 percent effort and be the best police officer I can be.”