Middlesex County Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian pulled no punches when he described the job of corrections officer as "difficult" and "stressful."
With that in mind, he expressed great pride in the 53 men and women who graduated from the Middlesex County Department of Corrections 35th Basic Training Academy in a ceremony at Dargin Hall on the South Campus of UMass Lowell.
North Andover resident Jessica Kelley was among the graduates.
Koutoujian told the hundreds of friends and family in attendance that the work done by corrections officers is often under appreciated, a situation he is committed to changing.
“Corrections officers should be recognized in the way fire fighters and police
officers are,” he said. “My job is to shed light on the work you do every day.”
The 2012 Basic Academy Training program was the first in four years for the Middlesex County Sheriff's Department and the first since Koutoujian was named sheriff in 2011.
In another first, Koutoujian only opened the academy to those officers who already had been working at the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office, most of whom were working on a temporary basis.
Prior to 2012, just 25 percent of the officers serving in the Middlesex County Sheriff's Department were not academy trained due to consecutive years of budget cuts, according to information provided by Koutoujian's office. The 53 officers who received their badges on Wednesday increased that number to 63 percent.
Koutoujian specifically recognized Officer Robert Bell of Tyngsboro, who was a temporary officer for six-and-a-half-years, as well as Officers Gregory Petto of Saugus and Shawn Flynn of Lowell, who were temporary officers for five years.
“Your determination and drive for this field is what led you here today,” Koutoujian said. “Your career starts today. So do the right thing. Participate. Lead."
Koutoujian also honored four military veterans in the graduating class, including Ducakis Germaine of Somerville, Brandon Dobbins of Medford, Eric Cunha of Lowell and Mark Anderson of Dorchester.
In his Keynote Speech to the graduates Massachusetts Department of Corrections Commissioner Luis Spencer emphasized the value of integrity and encouraged them to exhibit honorable conduct both while in uniform and during their time away from the job.
"Protect your reputation and use your time wisely," said Spencer, who began his career as a corrections officer. "Remember your mission."
Spencer also reminded the new officers that their education should not stop with the end of basic training.
"Take the time to learn the policies and study the procedures because these are put in place to see you home safely," he said.
Below is the class list for the 35th Basic Training Academy for the Middlesex County Department of Corrections.
Richard St. Germain