PURCHASE, N.Y. – With the announcement of “class dismissed” at their graduation, 54 Westchester County Police Academy recruits cheered and threw their white gloves in the air, marking the end of a grueling 20-week journey and the beginning of a career in law enforcement.
“We made sure they were prepared to handle everything that may come their way,” said Commissioner George Longworth of the Westchester County Department of Public Safety. “I salute you for how hard you’ve worked and how much you’ve accomplished and I welcome you to the law enforcement community.” The 54 men and women of the 134th Basic Police Recruit Class will be dispersed to 10 county departments and “nine other law enforcement agencies in the region,” according to a press release from the Westchester County government. County Executive Rob Astorino was on hand, along with Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore and other law enforcement dignitaries at the Performing Arts Center of Purchase College, SUNY, to congratulate them on their graduation from the police academy in Valhalla. “These recruits were challenged to bring their best effort to the academy every day,” said Astorino. “Nothing less would be acceptable. Their presence at this graduation ceremony is proof that they kept their end of the bargain.” He said 21st century police work “requires an enormous range of knowledge and skill that these recruits had just 20 weeks to master” before rattling off curriculum such as “criminal procedure law and the penal code, counter-terrorism, use of force and ethics,” plus many other topics. Newest Harrison Police Officer AJ Conte said the 20 weeks were “like bootcamp,” which included a six-mile run, being stunned by a Taser, carrying tires through the snow, and countless pushups. “It feels great,” said the 31-year-old Purchase resident upon graduation. “Amazing experience. It was awesome.” He added that being shocked by the Taser was the “most painful thing ever.” A video of the recruits' first day was shown at the end of the ceremony – being yelled at by the instructors and being forced to do pushups – and their evolution to becoming law enforcement officers.” Conte, an 11-year veteran of the Purchase Fire Department, “can’t wait to get started” with the Harrison Police Department. He received the Esprit de Corps Award for his high morale and leadership. His brother was “shocked and surprised” when his name was announced. “I was very impressed,” said 28-year-old Nick Conte, who also is a Purchase firefighter. “Christmas came early I think. He’s a great leader – everyone looks up to him. He’s a great guy and the award definitely shows that today. It was terrific to see.” All of the graduates are now a part of the “police family,” Longworth said. “With that great privilege comes great responsibility,” he said. “You will stand with your brother and sister as officers keeping the peace, enforcing the law and protecting the innocent.”