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Police, graduates ‘celebrate’ final Ayer Police Academy


AYER — Addressing the crowd of 22 graduates, their friends and family members on Dec. 16, Ayer Police Sgt. John MacDonald reminisced about the different lessons taught and experiences shared during this fall’s 12th and apparently last Ayer Citizens’ Police Academy, which he directed.

MacDonald talked about the November class held at Ayer District Court where the Academy members went to observe a drunken-driving trial. Six witnesses cleared an apparently handicapped man (who used a cane to walk) of OUI charges following testimony.

“We all had mixed feelings about the case,” said MacDonald of a discussion the group held afterwards. However, MacDonald recalled, “About an hour later, after the verdict was read out loud in court, one of you observed the defendant enter a local Dunkin’ Donuts. He was walking just fine and not using his cane.”

“Consider this another lesson that things seldom are as they appear,” MacDonald said.

The Academy started about a year after the Ayer Police Department moved from Town Hall to its present address on Park Street in 1998.

In the Great Hall of Ayer Town Hall, photos were snapped, hugs were abundant, and the crockpots lined a buffet table as the graduates schmoozed and reminisced. As they nibbled the foods they brought, the classmates introduced one another to their supporters, then watched a highlight-reel of photos taken along their 12-week journey. Then they dug into an enormous cake, frosted in blue and white and decorated with a lifelike replica of the Ayer police badge.

The Citizen’s Academy is coming to a close because of the lack of state funding. Money that had flowed from the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security has dried up.

Three-time Academy attendee Maureen Parlon of Ayer hoped that perhaps funding could be secured through donations. “I love it. I really wish businesses would come forward with money to do it next year,” she said.

Parlon was standing and talking to Paulette Aragones of Ayer, who’d completed her first Academy training. Aragones presented the Ayer police with a check collected from her classmates towards the purchase of a radar remote control trigger for speed traps.

For her husband, Jerry Aragones, it was his third Academy. His favorite seminar? “Criminal investigation, the evidence part, and the different ways they can collect evidence – fingerprints and how you have to improvise if you don’t’ have the equipment there. That was very interesting.”

He said he’d love to do it again. “Oh yeah, every time I’d do it. Every year, you learn something new.”

Five-time academy graduate Vivian Winchester also attended a similar offering by the Littleton police a few years back. She recalled visiting the Ayer District Court to witness a trial. “It’s interesting watching things that we normally don’t do,” and going to the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley. She recalled of the interior. “It’s lean shiny clean, but then what else do they have to do?” But she had a hard time narrowing down her favorite academy offering, stating she was a fan of them all.

Ayer Police officers pulled in to provide assistance over the past three months included:

* Station tour by officers Matthew Callahan, Brian Cunningham (who also aided with emergency medical and CPR certifications for attendees) and Richard Krasinskas (who participated in several seminars, including a mock drunken-driving arrest and self-defense tactics). Officer Jennifer Bigelow assisted her husband, State Police K-9 unit handler Jamie Bigelow and his partner Magnum, for a demonstration up at Ayer High School. And detectives Andrew Kularski and Kellie Barhight provided an introduction to criminal investigation techniques. Firearms demonstrations and a live pistol shoot was managed by Sgt. Michael Edmonds and Reserve Officer Robert Soultanian.

“Certificates of Completion” diplomas were signed by Ayer Police Chief William Murray, MacDonald, and Selectman Chairman Sullivan. Each graduate also received a navy T-shirt emblazoned with the academy logo and police badge.

Sullivan, himself a graduate of the first Ayer Citizen’s Police Academy, lauded the town’s police force. “I couldn’t be prouder of the bunch of guys and women that we have. Their badge reads service, integrity, and honor; that certainly exemplifies in my opinion what our local Police Department is all about.”

Graduates: Katey Anderson, Monica Gill, Sandra May, Yeraldo Garcia, Agnes Shanahan, Marianne Brouillette, Robert Brouillette, Lisa Gonsalves, John LaBounty, Charles Lombardo, Ashley Lombardo, L’Tanya Williams, Jerry Aragones, Paulette Aragones, Gabriel Peterson, Maureen Parlon, Vivian Winchester, Robert Hammond, Michael Bearce, Kerry Garfinkle, Ann Doe, and Kyle Pugh.