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LEWISTON – Learning teamwork is a top priority for new graduates of the Niagara County Law Enforcement Academy, many of whom will take to the street immediately as rookie police officers. Niagara University, which hosts the academy, held a graduation ceremony Wednesday evening in the Castellani Museum on the Lewiston campus.

“Being a team player is huge. Being a police officer you have to work with people really well,” said Niagara County Sheriff Sgt. Jill Herrington, co-director of the academy. “Nothing is individual. Everybody needs their backup and support and we try to instill that in them from the beginning.”

Classmates chose their class president and also chose the winner of the Jeffrey A. Incardona Memorial Award, which was given to a classmate who has the unselfish qualities of the late Niagara County sheriff’s deputy, and displays such qualities as working for the betterment of the team and being helpful throughout the academy. In this case, both class presidents, Kyle Achtyl and William LaRue, won the award.

Another teamwork award was the Joseph Steblein Memorial Award, named for the first director of the Niagara County Law Enforcement Academy, which is presented to the person who excels overall. This award, chosen by the co-directors, was presented to Rochelle Thomas and Adam Licastro.

Herrington said academics are a huge part of the program, which also includes physical fitness training, arrest techniques and defensive tactics, and firearms training.

The part-time 57th class, which started in September, and full-time 58th class, which started in January, includes 12 newly appointed Niagara Falls police officers, two North Tonawanda police officers, as well as a Youngstown and Village of Caledonia officer and a Niagara County sheriff deputy. Another 11 graduates are civilian pre-employment recruits interested in a law enforcement career in New York State, who have completed a majority of the training needed on their own.

Nicholas Redenbach, a member of the 54th class who recently completed firearms training after being hired by Middleport Police Department, was given the Top Gun firearms proficiency award.

Guest speakers included Niagara University President Rev. James J. Maher, the class presidents and former Lewiston Chief of Police and Lewiston Councilman Ronald Winkley, who is the director of the graduate program in criminal justice.

email: nfischer@buffnews.com