Lt. Dennis Nayor of the Oneonta Police Department has a list of tips for the recent graduates of the Otsego County Law Enforcement Academy.
Nayor is leading the department as the investigation of a police brutality investigation nears a conclusion. Chief Joseph Redmond is on administrative leave until he officially retires next month.
Although it wasn't directly mentioned by anyone during the OCLEA graduation held at the Hunt Union Ballroom at State University College at Oneonta, the alleged brutality incident and the resignations of three officers in connection with misconduct in 2009 seemed to be in the background.
In recent years, two top academy graduates have found themselves at the center of investigations. One, Joseph Stockdale, was among the three officers who resigned after the 2009 allegations. Stockdale, who graduated from OCLEA in 2005, earned the Investigator Rick Parisian Award for most outstanding cadet.
Officer Michael Breen, who is alleged to have punched a man several times in the face during an arrest, earned an academic award in 2009 named for OCLEA founder and former Otsego County Sheriff Donald Mundy.
Nayor's tips, which he read at the March 13 graduation, are as follows:
"¢ Everyday, strive to uphold the ideals of this noble profession. Your actions represent not only you and your respective agency, but represent every law enforcement officer who wears, will wear, or who has ever worn the uniform. Conduct yourself with this in mind.
"¢ Treat people with dignity and compassion. A homeless person or those with mental health issues are not necessarily criminals. They should never be treated as such simply because of their misfortunes.
"¢ Carry stickers for children because they are the ones who will look up to you.
"¢ Make honesty and integrity your backbone. Without that, nothing else matters.
"¢ Your reputation will precede you so be very conscious of the choices you make. Avoid temptation and remember how hard you worked to become a member of this profession.
"¢ Maintain interests and friends that are outside of law enforcement. Family, friends and faith will keep you from becoming cynical and bitter and will help you to better interact with the public you serve.
"¢ Understand that the interactions you have with those you encounter may only last a few minutes, but the manner in which you treat people will resonate with them forever.
"¢ Try to leave work at work and do not allow the negative aspects of the profession and the tragedies that you'll see ruin you.
"¢ As police officers you are not above the law, and you will be held to the highest standards. Accept and embrace that fact, because with great authority comes great responsibility.
"¢ Making a difference is not determined by the numbers of tickets that you write or the number of arrests you make. Issuing warnings and demonstrating a sense of understanding for the plight of others will sometimes do more good than anything else.
"Be safe and good luck on your well-deserved accomplishment," Nayor concluded.
Five of the nine graduates are now full-fledged members of the OPD.
Gastem USA President Orville Cole, speaking at an Oneonta Town Planning Board meeting last week, shared an encounter he had at OfficeMax as an example of the economic plight of the region.
Cole said he stopped by the store to get copies of the presentation he was delivering for the board members. While there, the clerk, who had a degree in geology, asked Cole if there were any employment opportunities at Gastem.
While Cole said he couldn't fault the clerk for working at OfficeMax, he said that probably wasn't his career choice.
"That's really not what he's gone through four or five years of school for," Cole said.
Whether gas drilling is right or wrong for our area will be debated far into the future.
And although Cole's mentioning of the clerk's job inquiry supports his company's position that gas drilling would be an economic boon for the region, college graduates having a tough time finding work in their fields _ or at all, especially in this region, is a matter that may be beyond debate.
Jake Palmateer can be reached at 432-1000 or (800) 721-1000, ext. 221, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.