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Bennington Police Department Welcomes Three Recruits

March 1, 2022
new recruits

BENNINGTON - The Bennington Police Department and the greater Bennington community welcomed three new officers to their ranks by introducing the recruits fresh out of the Vermont Police Academy's Level 3 officer training on Monday afternoon.

The recruits spoke exclusively with the Banner about various issues facing police officers today, including their training, the changing face of policing in 2022, their hopes for helping the community, and what they can do as new officers to help keep Bennington safe.

All three of the recruits told us that their interest in becoming police officers goes back to childhood.

Ryan Racana, 22, grew up in Rotterdam, N.Y., hoping to be a police officer one day.

"I've wanted to be a police officer ever since my eighth-grade careers day," said Racana. "I chose police officer as my career then, and after studying criminal justice in both high school and college, I applied here in Bennington."

Brandon Rumley, also 22, from Wappinger's Falls, N.Y., has family ties here in Bennington and the Shaftsbury area. He followed a similar path to law enforcement.

"I've loved coming up to Vermont ever since I was a kid," says Rumley. "It's always felt like home to me. Like Ryan, I took criminal justice classes in high school and college. I've been a volunteer firefighter in my hometown for the past six years. I have a history of public service throughout my family. Many family members are firefighters, and I have a cousin in law enforcement. I've always had a passion for this, ever since I can remember."

James Macaulay, 31, the oldest, is from Castleton. Macaulay won the Distinguished Academy Graduate Award for his excellence during training. Macaulay also studied criminal justice in college, but his law enforcement career took a five-year detour into the armed forces. He served two stints in Afghanistan before returning to finish his college degree in criminal justice with a minor in sociology from Castleton University.

Policing has always been a difficult profession, but that's never been more accurate, especially nowadays. Aside from the inherent danger built into the job, there are other factors that police departments and individual police officers face every day on the street. The Banner wanted to know how these new and idealistic recruits see the job they now hold and what they bring that allows them to deal with the pressures in a compassionate and meaningful way to serve the Bennington community.

"I believe there are challenges in every line of work, said Rumley. "I know that change doesn't come easy or by people sitting back and doing nothing. I know that I want to jump in and be a part of the change happening in policing, being more community-oriented. The one thing that drew me was making a positive change in somebody's life, regardless of who it is and what they look like, just trying to make a difference for the better is what drives me."

"I really feel that if people see even one person doing the right thing, that helps them to do the same," said Macaulay. "I never had any issues with becoming a police officer. I moved to Vermont when I was 17. It gave me a second chance and a wonderful place to live. I knew I wanted to give back to the area one day, and the best way I thought to do that was to become a police officer, helping people when they might be having the worst day of their life. I know I can help."

A lot of what police officers do today is not the same as back in the day. Officers are asked to not only be an enforcement presence on the streets, but in many cases officers are asked to also be part social workers as well. How might these new officers deal with the new demands that communities put on them?

"Our level-three training exposed us to mental-health and crisis management training," said Rumley. "It helped us to understand how to hone-in on people in need who might be suffering from mental illness or drug addiction, working with partners like the Department of Children and Families, or PAVE with domestic violence, helping to recognize what I can do to de-escalate these situations and get people on the road to getting the resources to get the help they need."

"We did a lot of scenarios that were mental health-focused," said Racana. "People that are possibly suicidal, delusional, or maybe on some sort of substance, recognizing the signs of that, that this isn't necessarily just an angry person, but that they need help, that makes a difference."

"You need to listen and be patient and courteous to people," Macaulay said, "regardless of how they're treating you. Someone might be having a bad day and might see you as a police officer, take it out on you. You still need to be able to help them."

In keeping with some of the issues that have surfaced recently in the news, they were asked if they might be able to recognize if something was not right during a police interaction, regardless of who that person might be, and have the wherewithal to make it right or report what you see - a wrong - even if it becomes hard to do so?

"The first core value that you learn in the police academy is integrity," said Rumley. "Doing the right thing, even when no one is watching, that's something that can't be taken away. Maintaining that, regardless of the situation, is a moral choice as a human being, regardless of if it's in the public eye or not."

The officers were asked if they are able to serve the whole community, regardless of what someone might look like or how they choose to live their lives?

"I grew up in public schools that were very diverse," said Rumley. "At the academy, we were taught that everyone has some implicit bias, but it's being able to look at everyone from the same objective lens that makes the difference. Everyone deserves to be treated the same way without judgment. At the end of the day, you're there to help someone. It should never matter what they look like or how they align themselves."

All three recruits will participate in a mentoring program and field training for the next six weeks in Bennington and further online academy training before getting permanent assignments on the Bennington Police force. They will also serve a year probation before they are no longer considered rookies.

"I am pleased with the performance of our recruits at the Vermont Police Academy," said Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette in an email to the Banner. "We welcome them to the Bennington Police Department."

Michael Albans
Compliments of: The Bennington Banner