2007-07-12 / News

Jamestown police department hires three recent academy graduates

By Sam Bari

Three recent graduates of the Rhode Island Municipal Police Training Academy in Lincoln were sworn in as Jamestown police officers at Monday's Town Council meeting. The officers were recruited through the regional testing, six-town cooperative policehiring program the town joined in 2006, according to town Police Chief Thomas Tighe. He said the recruits were hired so the department could meet staffing requirements after losing three seasoned veterans last year.

"Sgt. Jack Dube retired, Sgt. Bill Piva is now running the recreation department, and Tom Balcom quit after 18 years on the force," the chief said. He went on to say that the losses resulted in the department being short-staffed, making scheduling difficult at times. The hiring program gave the town an opportunity to hire the best available recruits, he said, adding, all three graduated in the top ten in their class.

The new officers will now participate in the Field Training Officer (FTO) program run by Sgt. Joel Pinocci, Tighe said. He explained that the new officers would be partnered with each of three department field-training officers to learn all phases of department operations.

Sgt. Pinocci described the program, saying that he was in charge of scheduling the recruits for the 12-week program where they would learn the techniques of traffic stops, town ordinances, department policies and procedures, locations for emergency facilities, and how to handle medical, fire, and accident situations. Pinocci also said the program was designed to give the officers thorough training in interrogation and investigative techniques and procedures.

"Officers Karen Catlow, John Areson and Sgt. Mark Esposito, our FTOs, are experienced veterans, and each specializes in a different area of police work," Pinocci said. "The FTOs work with the recruits throughout their shifts and complete an evaluation report at the end of each day. I review the reports to check their progress and help them work on areas that might need improvement."

Pinocci said the intense, comprehensive program, affords the town well-trained, knowledgeable officers who are prepared to confidently and competently handle any situation they may encounter in the course of their work. "Everybody benefits from well-trained police officers," Pinocci added.

Catlow is the school liaison officer, Pinocci said. She is the link between Jamestown schools and the police department. She will take each recruit to the schools and introduce them to the principals and school personnel. She trains them in the programs that involve students and schools, like safety and emergency procedures, Pinocci added.

Areson specializes in community affairs, businesses, the courts, and fire department and patrol operations. He fundamentally instructs the recruits on how the department works, Pinocci explained.

Sgt. Esposito is an experienced veteran who works the night shift from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. He teaches the new officers DUI (driving under the influence) training, how to administer field sobriety tests, and booking procedures, Pinocci said.

The new officers are:Officer Tiffany Kopacz, 32, graduated second in her class at the academy and comes from Warwick. Kopacz is married with three children ages 9, 7 and 4. She is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and holds a degree in exercise science. Her husband, Kristopher, is a research scientist specializing in biotechnology. Kopacz said that she always wanted to be a police officer and that she enjoys community service.

Officer Ted Hebert, 31, of Burrillville, graduated eighth in his class at the academy and also graduated with honors from CCRI with a degree in criminal justice. Hebert adds his experience as a scuba diver to his skills as a police officer. Hebert said that he enjoys working with people, and believes that police work is an exciting career choice.

Officer Rui Silva, 32, of Pawtucket, graduated sixth in his class at the academy and originally hails from the Cape Verde Islands. However, he grew up in Providence and has been a Rhode Island resident most of his life. Silva has two daughters, spent seven years in the navy, and holds a double bachelors degree in political science and criminal justice from CCRI. He was also in the National Guard Military Police and felt that becoming a police officer was just a natural progression from his work experience.

Except for Providence police officers and State Police, all police officers in the state train at the Rhode Island Municipal Police Training Academy in Lincoln where a 16-week training course is offered three times a year.

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