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Police academy graduates say they're ready for action

July 22, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Wearing shiny badges and crisp new uniforms, the graduates from the Western Maryland Police Academy said they were ready to hit the streets.

"It's gonna be a lot of fun. It's what we've worked for," said James Sword, who will be sworn in later this week as a Washington County Sheriff's deputy.

"It's been tough, it's been a challenge. A lot of hard work, but it's all paid off now. I think all of us feel we can be prepared to do our jobs now. We can be safe," Sword said.

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Sword is one of eight academy graduates joining the Sheriff's Department. Two others will join the Hagerstown Police Department, and another will join the Smithsburg Police Department. Another nine are either joining departments around the state or hoping to be placed with one soon.

Monday's ceremony at Hagerstown Community College was the culmination of six months of weekly exams, physical tests and weapons training needed to become full-time police officers in Maryland.

One of two officers joining the city police department from this graduating class, Jesse Duffey, 21, of Greencastle, Pa., said he knows he's chosen a dangerous career path. He has already been a patrol officer in Pennsylvania.

"It's something different every day. ... Every call you go to, you've got a gun there. ... You take a risk every day. You never know what's going to be thrown at you."

Duffey's mother, Gwyn McCleary was at the ceremony and said she's accepted her son's choice of work.

"I mean, I'm very honored ... but on the other hand, as a mother, it concerns me as far as the environment, but that's up to God," McCleary said.

Officials at local police departments said their new members ware filling vital positions.

Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith said the two newest officers will join four others who graduated Friday from the Maryland Police Corps. Smith said there is still room for three more officers, which he hopes to fill in the coming months with officers from other jurisdictions.

In the meantime, the new officers must continue learning through field training.

"They have their work cut out for them for a while: 16 weeks before they can really take a deep breath," Smith said.

Washington County Sheriff Charles Mades said county growth has put stress on his department, and deputies sometimes are not able to respond immediately to less serious calls.

But the eight new deputies, "that's a police presence to be reckoned with, I guess you could say," Mades said. "I'm right where I gotta be."

Tara Bender, 26, originally from Philadelphia, said she, too, is where she needs to be. Also joining the Sheriff's Department, she said she was ready to get going - with one caveat.

"Can't wait. I feel like I could use a vacation, to be honest with you," Bender said.

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