2004-06-18 / Community

The Citizen’s Police Academy Report

The Citizen’s Police Academy Report

Rabbi Melvyn May, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Wave Associate Editor Brian Magoolaghan at the Citizen’s Police Academy  graduation last week. Photo by Elio Velez.Rabbi Melvyn May, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Wave Associate Editor Brian Magoolaghan at the Citizen’s Police Academy graduation last week. Photo by Elio Velez.

My graduation from the Citizen’s Police Academy last Thursday evening was a real success: I didn’t trip on the stage and they even spelled and pronounced my last name correctly!

We traveled to the graduation ceremony in style. 100 Precinct Community Affairs Unit Officer Pete Rahaniotis drove fellow classmate Rabbi Melvyn May, of West End Temple, May’s guest and I in a NYPD van. We didn’t use the lights and sirens to push though traffic, but we had seatbelts, air conditioning and no trouble parking.

We arrived at One Police Plaza to find our fellow classmates, their guests and our Police Academy instructors milling about the auditorium. We were allowed to pick up our diplomas on the way in. With a last name like Magoolaghan, checking the spelling becomes instinctual (even wedding invitations from close friends arrive addressed to "Brian McGoolihan"). My diploma was perfect.

May and I staked out two seats and then went out to congratulate our fellow classmates and thank our instructors. We took pictures with Program Coordinator Sergeant Shelley Greene and Sergeant Anthony Direnzo, who said his mother enjoyed reading about him in the Citizen’s Police Academy Report. Hearing that alone made all this worth it. Sergeant John Donnelly also thanked me for the "write-up."

We were called to order after about 30 minutes. The NYPD executes graduation ceremonies with precision. A master of ceremonies explained how everything would go – when we would start, how we would walk, even when we would cover our hearts. After the pep talk I went up to the stage and introduced myself to the man who would have the tough task of pronouncing my name. I showed him my diploma, said my name and joked that this could be the first graduation where my name was pronounced correctly.

"How do they say it?" the emcee asked of those who goofed up my name in the past. "No, no, I don’t want to get confused!" he said, as I was about to give him one of many examples.

About a half-hour later the ceremony was underway. It started off with the familiar Hero’s video, followed by the National Anthem, the invocation and remarks from Kelly and James J. Fyfe, Ph.D., Deputy Commissioner, Training.

Kelly called the Citizen’s Academy a "growing tradition" where civilians get an "up-close experience with police work."

Then it was time for us to receive our diplomas. May and I were seated several rows back, so I was able to watch about 60 of my fellow classmates before it was my turn. The instructions were simple: walk up the stage stairs, wait at the black tape line until you hear your name, strut across to Kelly, shake (hands), take (diploma) and look out at the audience towards the NYPD photographer in the balcony.

My heart started beating a bit faster when my row got up and walked over to the stage stairs. I reminded myself to be cool. "Shake, take and smile for the camera," I repeated in my mind. May, who was right behind me, was calm. I looked down at my shoes to make sure the laces were tied.

My moment came. The master of ceremonies’ pronunciation was perfect. I strolled out and put my right hand into Kelly’s, put my left hand up on the diploma and looked out at the audience. I felt the flash on my face and heard Kelly say "Congratulations, Brian." I thanked him and was on my way.

When all of the diplomas were handed out class valedictorian Reverend Michael E. Clarke addressed the audience. The most enthusiastic applause of the evening came when Clarke spoke of the men and women of the Police Academy, who lectured our classes.

"Commissioner Kelly, you can not find a more efficient team of instructors than these," said Clarke. A warm smile came to Kelly’s face.

The entire graduation ran like clockwork and was designed not to waste a moment of the commissioner’s time, so I was surprised to see how generous he was after the ceremony. Kelly was completely mobbed, but if you wanted a photo with him you got one.

Only two things I had envisioned for graduation day didn’t happen the way I hoped. First, I wanted to be in a suit and tie. Kelly has a sharp appearance – chiseled facial features, a close buzz cut and beautifully tailored suits. Unfortunately, a last minute dry-cleaning issue, and perhaps genetics (ha-ha) kept me from looking as dashing. Second, I imagined that Rahaniotis and his partner Kenneth Beecher, May and I would all go out for some fine dining in Manhattan afterwards. But Beecher didn’t attend the ceremony – he joked that he might get emotional seeing "the Goo" graduate from the Citizen’s Academy. I hope his graduation gift to me will be that he cuts it out with that nickname – I can live with the others: "the cub reporter," "Jimmy Olsen," "freak," but "the Goo" must go.

Rahaniotis couldn’t do dinner either. He had to get back to his office to do some additional planning for the American Legion parade in Broad Channel the following day.

Just when I thought my dining dreams were over, May generously suggested that I join him and his guest for dinner in Breezy Point. I accepted – May and I had never met before we began attending the academy, but in the last 15 weeks we have become friends. His calm disposition is nearly the exact opposite of my own – I hope that time and the example from people like him can help me change that.

There a few people who I need to thank for making my experience at the Citizen’s Academy a success: Officers Rahaniotis and Beecher, for inviting me to attend; Wave Managing Editor Howard Schwach, for being supportive and enthusiastic; Deputy Chief Diana Pizzuti, Program Coordinator Sergeant Shelley Greene and Program Advisor Sergeant Benedict Pape, for trusting my good judgment; all of the instructors, specifically Sergeant Anthony Direnzo, Sergeant John Donnelly and Police Officers LeRoy Williams and Frances Aquino, for making class interesting, entertaining and worth looking forward to each week; 101 Precinct Detective Willy Olmeda and Police Officers Rich Callahan and Brian Peyton, for the ride-along; Rabbi Melvyn May, for being such good company; Wave Sports Editor Elio Velez, for photographing the graduation; and finally, everyone who I ran into in Rockaway who said they were following the Citizen’s Police Academy Report in The Wave.

Three or four weeks into the program I wondered if the report belonged on Page 2. I didn’t know if anyone was reading, and I doubted whether the report should appear on such a prominent page. But then I saw someone at the Irish Circle, who said he was reading. Then an officer on patrol and a nurse at a luncheon, and there were more and more. I was delighted and flattered to know that people were taking the time to read about this experience. So, thanks again for being interested – it really helped.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the store to buy a frame for my diploma.

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