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CONTACT: Steve Tompkins
SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT CHOICE OFFICERS GRADUATED, READY TO SERVE COMMUNITY
Local community outreach efforts recently received a needed boost with the graduation of the second class of cadre officers from the Choice Program at the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department.
Following a week of instruction at the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department Training Division facility in Chelsea, a total of eleven new Choice officers are now available to begin visiting schools, camps, and community centers with the purpose of providing youths with the necessary support and tools to help them deter violence among their peers, avoid drugs, and lead positive, productive lives.
These new graduates join with the fourteen officers from the first class of recruits that graduated in January 2006.
The Choice Program, created by Sheriff Andrea J. Cabral in the beginning of last year, is designed to encourage children to respect themselves and others while helping them to prepare for their futures. Officers participating in the program speak with youths about the dangers of drug use and gang involvement, as well as the consequences of criminal activity.
“We’re always working to reduce the rate of inmate recidivism, but with the Choice Program, we stress prevention and keeping kids from ever coming to stay with us,” said Deputy James Cochrane, Instructor for the Choice Program. “When you consider that we can positively influence kids, this is a very important program.”
Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Kevin Hayden agreed, saying, “I think what the Choice officers do is great. We see with everything that’s happening on the streets in the neighborhoods that more intervention is needed in the lives of young people, not less.”
This year, along with the standard instruction that each officer receives through the program, a new civic education component was added to the training.
Matt O’Malley, Director of Legislative Affairs for the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, made a presentation to the officers designed to provide them with the skills necessary to increase the level of civic engagement among area youths. O’Malley stated that the intent of his address was to give officers insight into the political process surrounding local and national government which they can pass along to their audience while creating a stronger emphasis on the importance of registering to vote.
“We want you to be able to adapt this and utilize it to its best effect,” said O’Malley of the civics component. “Our goal is to get kids more interested in politics and the world around them by getting them to begin thinking about government and how it relates to their lives.”
Summarizing the overall feelings held by the other graduating Choice officers was Deputy Gioacchino Curiale.
“I requested the opportunity to come to the Choice Program so I could speak to kids about the importance of making the right choices, getting good grades in school, and resisting peer pressure to use drugs and join gangs,” said Curiale. “I really think that we can make a positive impact in their lives.”
For Assistant Deputy Superintendent Yolanda Smith, Supervisor of the Training Division, the willingness and dedication shown by the officers exemplifies what the program is all about.
“The Choice Program offers hope for children,” said Smith. “It’s great to see the officers digging deep within themselves for this. This is an all–volunteer program – the officers made the decision to come to this training and become Choice officers. They have real compassion for the children and it really means a lot for them to be able to go out to the schools and neighborhood events and speak to kids about making smart decisions and being good people.”
Choice officers will be making presentation visits to community centers throughout the summer and, beginning in September, to schools within Suffolk County when they resume classes.
The June 2007 class of Choice Program graduates are: Deputy Dennis Manning, Deputy Justin Manning, Corporal Christina Chaney, Deputy William Miller, Lieutenant Bruce Owen, Corporal Helena Roberts, Sergeant Mary Holton, Deputy Luther Miles, Deputy Gioacchino Curiale, Deputy Joanne O’Brien, and Deputy Paul Darcy.