The Vermont Police Academy graduated 38 cadets on Friday for departments like the Vermont State Police, the Rutland City Police Department, the Montpelier Police Department and the Brandon Police Department, as well as nine canine teams from the grounds of the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Center in Pittsford.

After four months of training, the members of the 108th Basic Recruit Class, the three members of the Canine Tracking and Evidence School and the six members of the Patrol and Evidence School, which also trains teams of officers and police dogs, took their oaths, had their badges pinned by family and friends and became certified law-enforcement officers.

Chief George Merkel, of the Vergennes Police Department, who was guest speaker at the graduation ceremony, said, “As you continue your career as a police officer, every day will present you with unique opportunities that will be afforded to you because of your profession. Likewise because of your profession, you’ll be charged with some awesome responsibilities. By virtue of your profession, and even in today’s day and age, most people who encounter you will trust you. Based on your profession and what your uniform represents, you’ll be expected to help and provide assistance, protection and safety to those in need even at the risk of your own safety,” Merkel said.

Merkel is a 23-year veteran of the Vermont Army National Guard, served 12 years as a K-9 officer at the Middlebury Police Department before taking the position in Vergennes, and he is the president of the Vermont Association of Chiefs of Police.

After the graduation, Daniel Blanchard Jr., who will join the Rutland City Police Department, said joining his local police department was a longtime goal for him.

“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always had a strong drive for the military or ... I know it’s cliché to say but something bigger than myself. I wanted something organized, I wanted structure. I wanted to be proud of what I was doing,” he said.

Blanchard, who is from North Clarendon, said he “just wants to work hard and help the community the best I can.”

Avery Schneider, who will also joining the force in the city, said it felt “pretty surreal” too finally be able to serve as a police officer.

“Today means the start of my career,” she said.

Audrey Currier, who will join the Vermont State Police, and who served as president of the academy’s 108th Class, asked her fellow recruits to remember the lessons they learned in Pittsford.

“We learned that even if you don’t know how to do something, sometimes you just need to fight through it, not just for yourself, but for your brothers and sisters in blue as well as for your families waiting for you to come home,” Currier said.

The Vermont Police Academy hosts two training classes each year.

patrick.mcardle

@rutlandherald.com

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