By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette — LEWISTON — For Judith Dolan and Joel Smith it’s been a long 22 weeks.
But both were beaming on Friday afternoon as they graduated from the Niagara County Law Enforcement Academy and officially began their careers as Falls Police officers.
“It’s a great sense of accomplishment,” Smith said, “that all the hard work paid off. I’m just ready to start my career.”
For Dolan the academy was especially challenging, after she broke her foot during the training. Off her crutches now, she said she was ready to get on the Cataract City streets.
“I’m excited and I’m proud,” Dolan said. “(Overcoming the challenge of the broken foot) makes this special. I didn’t want to give up. I wanted to make it.”
Smith and Dolan will be the last two officers to join the Falls force during the tenure of Superintendent John Chella. Chella, who is retiring at the end of the year, looked on proudly as he watched his last academy class graduate.
“I’m thinking, if I’ve done the numbers right, in my nine years as superintendent, we’ve hired 78 officers and that’s more than half of the department right now,” Chella said. “It’s a young department and that’s a good thing.”
Class president Daniel Barrancotta, the son of a Lockport Police lieutenant, said he believed he and the others who were graduating with him were drawn to a law enforcement career out of a desire to help people.
“People call the police when they are in desperate need of help, when they’ve exhausted all of their options and they don’t know what to do,” Barrancotta said. “This profession is unlike any other. We run to chaos when everyone else is running away. I wanted to help people.”
In his keynote address to the graduates, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York William Hochul Jr. said they will learn quickly that they now carry a title, officer, “that stands for the critical importance of their profession.”
“These men and women are about to pledge their oaths, their honors and their careers to make Western New York a better place, and I don’t think it’s ever been more challenging,” Hochul said. “Fortunately, this academy has provided them with the tools to protect and serve us. Now, they will move on to a lifetime of service, always wearing the badge with honor, integrity and impeccable honesty.”
For Smith and Dolan, that service is now underway with field training for the next several weeks. Smith said he’s already seen that life on the streets can be different from the academy campus at Niagara University.
“It’s a lot different from the classroom,” Smith said. “But the skills and training we got in the classroom, we apply on the streets.
Barrancotta reminded his classmates that their academy time has prepared them for what lies ahead.
“At times, we all excelled and, at times, we all struggled,” he said. “But we stuck together through it all. I’m so proud of the way we stayed strong.”FRIDAY'S GRADUATES • Daniel Barrancotta, Lockport Police Dept. • Nicholas Conde, Pre-employment recruit • Joseph A. Corona, Genesee County Sheriff's Office • Felicia Ann DeGroot, Pre-employment recruit • Judith Dolan, Niagara Falls Police Dept. • Ryan J. Dziura, North Tonawanda Police Dept. • Andrew Johnson, Lockport Police Dept. • Chief John Palillo, Attica Police Dept. • Christopher Pino, Niagara County Sheriff's Office • Jason R. Price, Pre-employment recruit • Nicholas M. Redenbach, Pre-employment recruit • Robert Rougeux, Pre-employment recruit • Joel Smith, Niagara Falls Police Dept. • Jeffrey Vorholzer, Pre-employment recruit