WC police recruits graduate in shadow of cop trial

The 13 new police recruits who graduated from the Westchester County Police Academy Friday, just two days after the acquittal of a Yonkers cop in a police brutality trial, were forewarned to be extra cautious on the job.

Although the jury found Yonkers Police Officer Wayne Simoes not guilty of violating the civil rights of Irma Marquez by using excessive force to restrain her, the recruits who saw the tape of Simoes allegedly slamming the woman to the ground last year say there is something to be learned from that.

"The Westchester County prepares us pretty well," says Christina Brown. "[We] have excellent instructors; we have a lot more to learn."

With the help of new technology, it is easier now than ever before to record the actions of others. Westchester County Police Commissioner Thomas Belfiore says the recruits should be aware their conduct will be under scrutiny.

"[You] don't want to do anything your mom would see on TV," says Chief Joseph Benefico, of the Pelham Police Department. "Keep that theory in the back of your head and you'll act accordingly."

The newly graduated officers will start their field training with their respective departments as early as Monday. All the new recruits have to go through the mandatory 100-day training course before hitting the streets. Training includes classes in which the officers talk to members of the press about the interaction between the two professions, which sometimes can take a hostile turn.

Simoes' acquittal Wednesday has prompted some criticism of the media over the repeated use of the surveillance video in the coverage of the trial. Yonkers Police Commissioner Edmund Hartnett even accused News 12 Westchester of having the intention to influence the jurors.

"Many of our officers feel that was an intentional ploy or motive on the part of News 12 to taint the jury pool, and I have to say respectfully I agree with them," Hartnett says.

Civil rights activist and Pace University Law Professor Randolph McLaughlin strongly disagrees with Hartnett.

"When he said you guys tried to influence the jury...that's an outrageous statement for a police commissioner," McLaughlin says.

According to former federal prosecutor Bill Aronwald, a balance is needed when it comes to the treatment of evidence in the media.

"Often times when the media shows something over and over, it shows just one side," he says. "There is the potential for the jury pool to be tainted."

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For Westchester County Police Academy?s graduation ceremony, go to your digital cable box and select iO Extra, Ch. 612.

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