SCHENECTADY — The city on Friday added 14 new police officers — the largest group of recruits to be added in the 21st Century, and one that adds women and the first Guyanese-Americans to the force.
The addition of two officers of Guyanese descent is a first for the city, which has developed a significant Guyanese population over the past two decades.
"I've always wanted to be in law enforcement," said Shaquille A. Hemerding, one of the Guyanese-American officers. "I want to challenge myself every day."
The 23-year-old, who moved here from Brooklyn while in the fourth grade, is a graduate of Niskayuna High School and has attended Hudson Valley Community College and Schenectady County Community College. He recognizes he will become a role model to other citizens of Guyanese background.
"I want to show everyone, wherever they come from, that they can come forward and can challenge themselves," Hemerding said after he and the other new officers were sworn in by Mayor Gary McCarthy.
Most of the recruits, none of whom has previous police experience, will attend a regional police academy in Schenectady for six months and will then work under supervision before becoming full-fledged officers. It's a process that takes about a year, overall, said Police Chief Eric Clifford.
"It's important that the police department be reflective of the community, and we've done that," Clifford said. "But first, these are quality candidates."
The hiring brings the police department to its budgeted staffing level of 161 officers, Clifford said. Six will replace officers expected to be assigned to the Schenectady County street crime task force, and eight are filling vacancies.
McCarthy said the hiring shows Schenectady is taking the measures needed to maintain public safety, as the city works to improve its image to attract more residents.
"We're not going to tolerate people who do not play by the rules," McCarthy told the recruits, before a large audience of family members and friends. "We're going to make sure the community is safe."
Leah R. Howe, 26, is a Schenectady native who attended Schenectady County Community College and worked for the past three years as a corrections officer at the county jail.
"I'm looking forward to having a job where you don't know what to expect — to challenging myself every day," Howe said.
"I've always wanted to this, either this or be in the military, have a safer community and be a better person," said Nicholas Smith, 23, a graduate of Schenectady High School with a University at Albany degree in digital forensics. He has attended Finger Lakes Community College and SCCC.
The other new officers are:
- Andre A. Alert, 30, who graduated from high school in Guyana in 2004 and has a criminal justice degree from Columbia-Greene Community College.
- William P. Balta, 23, a 2016 graduate of Union College, where he studied theater and political science.
- Alberto F. Beltran, 24, a graduate of Schalmont High School, SCCC and SUNY Cortland, where he earned a degree in criminology.
- Shawn D. Berard, 20, a graduate of Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons High School currently attending SUNY Plattsburgh.
- Abigail R. Boyer, 21, graduated from Fort Plain High School and Fulton-Montgomery Community College with a degree in criminal justice.
- Matthew C. Flood, 30, attended HVCC after attending high school in Cohoes but graduating from a high school in Florida.
- Ryan F. Folti, 22, is a graduate of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School and has a degree in law enforcement leadership from SUNY Canton.
- Mark P. Mastroianni Jr., 38, attended Columbia College and is attending Ashford University.
- Andrew J. Matturro, 21, is a Shenendehowa High School graduate who also graduated from HVCC with a criminal justice degree.
- Joshua T. MIller, 21, is a graduate of Niskayuna High School and holds a degree in individual studies from HVCC.
- Anthony A. Wolcott, 28, graduated from high school in Edmestron and studied fisheries and wildlife management at Paul Smiths College and SUNY-Cobleskill.
"I was involved in every step of the selection process, and so was the command staff," Clifford said. The appointments were made by McCarthy.