V.I. Police Academy Class of 2014 graduates

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ST. CROIX - Local law enforcement departments on St. Croix welcomed 33 new officers into the fold on Friday during the V.I. Police Academy graduation of the class of 2014.

More than 200 family members, fellow officers and supporters gathered inside the ballroom at Government House to witness the swearing-in of the new peace officers, who represented seven agencies - V.I. Police Department; Bureau of Corrections; V.I. Superior Court; V.I. Fire Service; V.I. Port Authority; Youth Rehabilitation Center; and V.I. Waste Management Authority.

Superior Court Judge Harold Willocks administered the oath of duty to the 20 police officers and the three who were sworn as deputy court marshals. Six corrections officer now join the ranks of peace officers, and one each was sworn-in to the remaining agencies.

Newly graduated Deputy Marshal Shakyma Mercado spoke on behalf of the class, looking back at what they learned in the last seven months. "As we begin our career our first obligation is to look within ourselves, approach each situation with honesty, integrity and pride," she said.

Special recognition was given to several officers for outstanding achievement in a number of areas.

Police Officer Robert Combie and Deputy Marshal Danley McIntosh were recognized as outstanding men in physical fitness, while Melissa Banuelos was honored as the highest female achiever in physical fitness.

Police Officers Patricia Simmonds, A-Jay Jackson and Jermaine Henley received recognition for outstanding achievement in firearms, while Police Officer Melissa Smith received recognition in academics.

The Commissioner's Award for the most well-rounded graduate with the highest overall score was given to Police Officer Robert Combie.

The keynote address was delivered by Training Coordinator Gleston McIntosh, who said he was proud that while 55 recruits entered the academy he was left with 33 officers who rose to the challenge every time and completed the rigorous mental and physical training.

"You have all done well, but I want you to remember that it is impossible to learn all you need to know in the academy," he said. "You now have to apply what you have learned in the field and make a difference."

Police Commissioner Rodney Querrard Sr. said as chairman of the Peace Officer Standard Training council, he was proud that for the first time the academy graduates included the peace officers from Fire, Corrections and YRC who are expected to take their oaths seriously and respond to the call.

He charged the new officers to live with honor and serve with pride regardless of the circumstance.

Things will not be ideal every day, and there will be times when they have to respond to suicide calls, tragic car crashes, domestic situations, homicides and other situations that may be emotionally taxing, Querrard said. As they do that, they must remember to never let their personal feelings cloud their judgement and make them forget their oath, he said.

"You have to be fair and firm to enforce the law," Querrard said. "No exceptions."

Querrard told the officers to protect their badges and what they stand for.

Assistant Police Commissioner Thomas Hannah, Training Director Barrington Thomas Sr., St. Croix Police Chief James Parris and Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis also gave remarks during the ceremony.

After the ceremony, family and friends gathered with the graduates for light refreshments, hugs and pictures.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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