WOONSOCKET – Nearly all of them speak at least a little Spanish, one’s learning sign language and another’s been patrolling the corridors of a federal penitentiary a couple of miles away.
They’re five new members of the Woonsocket Police Department, sworn in yesterday at police headquarters after graduating from the state Municipal Police Academy in Lincoln.
“They’re very special people,” said Police Chief Thomas Carey. “Hundreds of people apply for these jobs. We try to get the best people we possibly can.”
The officers were sworn in by Mayor Leo T. Fontaine in the roll-call room at the Clinton Street police station as a standing-room-only crowd of family members and friends looked on. The mayor praised the new policemen for their “commitment to a very honorable profession and to the city of Woonsocket.”
The officers are:
n David T. Bibeault. A city resident and graduate of Woonsocket High School, he had been working as the assistant manager of a Lowe’s store in Plainville before attending the police academy. He has a bachelor of science degree from Rhode Island College, graduating with a GPA of 3.4.
n Zachary Bienkiewicz. Born in Woonsocket, he graduated from Johnson and Wales University with a degree in hotel and restaurant management, earning a GPA of 3.68. Bienkiewicz is married with two chidlren and had been working as a corrections officer at the Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls before attending the police academy.
n Andrew Girard. The great-grandson of a Woonsocket police officer, he was an Eagle Scout and has a first-degree black belt in martial arts. He has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Rhode Island College, graduating with a GPA of 3.7, and interned at the Providence Police Department’s evidence bureau. He volunteers with the Charlestown Rescue Company and was working as a lifeguard for the state Department of Environmental Management before attending the academy.
n Matthew Labine, a Woonsocket resident and former captain of his high school football and baseball teams. He holds an associate’s degree in law enforcement from the Community College of Rhode Island and is the brother-in-law of WPD Lt. Brad Scully. During their background investigation of Labine, recruiters discovered that he often cleared the driveways of his neighbors without being asked to do so.
n Michael Theroux. Also a Woonsocket resident and a graduate of the city high school, he attends Penn Foster online college in criminal justice and maintains a 3.4 GPA. He’s married with two children. Prior to attending the police academy, he worked at a machine shop in Coventry for 10 years.
The chief pointed out that Theroux was chosen to read the law enforcement officer’s code of ethics during his graduation ceremony from the municipal police academy, which is considered a high honor.
“Ethical behavior is very important to me,” the chief said in a preamble to his presentation to each of the recruits with “a gift.” He handed each one an “accountability coin,” a handsome medallion etched with several important questions police should ask themselves when faced with vexing ethical dilemmas. Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing it for the right reasons?
At one point, the chief held up Detective Capt. Edward J. Lee Jr. as an example of the success they could achieve in police work. Lee, he said, just returned from one of the most prestigious law enforcement schools in the world, the FBI Academy National Academy in Quantico, Va., for over two months of specialized, graduate-level training.
Each of the cadets took turns at the lectern to say a few words after being sworn in. Most mentioned the difficulty of their 22-week training regimen at the academy, a course that covers physical fitness, tactics, law and more.
“It’s been tough but it was a great learning experience,” said Bibeault.
The hurdles aren’t over for the newcomers. Each will be paired up with a veteran police mentor for four months of field training. The recruits are also on probation for a year, a period during which the city has the power to terminate them without cause.
Capt. Kenneth Paulhus said the new additions bring the force up to the maximum troop strength allowable under the police union’s existing contract with the city – 91 police officers.
Owing to budget restrictions, the International Brotherhood of Police Officers has temporarily consented to the operation of the department with fewer officers than its traditional contingent of 100 – not including the chief. The pact calls for manpower to rise to 95 members in January, which means the department will soon be sending a new crop of recruits to the academy.