By LEOMINSTER CHAMPION
Worcester County Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis welcomed 12 new correction officers to the Worcester County
Sheriff ’s Office during a graduation ceremony on June 5 at Anna Maria College.
Leominster Resident Officer Jonathan Baldwin, who was the recipient of the Francis T. Foley Academic Award for the highest class average, as well as the Lawrence P. Sullivan Physical Fitness Award, was part of the 43rd graduating class of the Worcester County Sheriff ’s Office Basic Recruit Training Academy. The group, which also included five military servicemen, was the eighth class to graduate under Evangelidis’ increased hiring standards, which he introduced shortly after taking office.
Since taking office, Evangelidis has made significant changes to the hiring standards in order to professionalize the department. All correctional officer applicants must have, at minimum, an associate’s degree or at least two years of military service. They must also take and pass a written exam, physical fitness test, background check and psychological screening test. Evangelidis has also implemented a policy that prohibits the acceptance of letters of recommendation from politicians, while United States military applicants are given priority status in the hiring process.
“Our new officers have met the highest hiring standards in corrections today and have completed the finest training academy in Massachusetts,” Evangelidis said. “With over 6,200 inmates going through the jail doors each year, we look for the best individuals we can find to make our community a safer place and to ensure the public safety of our citizens. Corrections is a hard job with significant challenges. Our success, although difficult to quantify, will be measured by the crimes that are never committed.”
During the 12-week academy recruits are taught to handle the daily challenges of safely keeping the care, custody, and control of inmates incarcerated at the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction. Classroom topics include legal issues, mental health in a correctional setting, staff/inmate interaction, security/emergency procedures, interpersonal communication skills and use of force regulations.
In addition, instructors use hands-on training to teach defensive tactics, fire safety, use of restraint, searches, driver training, weapons qualification and physical fitness is held daily. Students are also quizzed on policy weekly and recruits must maintain an academic average of at least 70 percent in order to graduate.
Also during the academy, the recruits performed community service serving breakfast at St. John’s Food for the Poor Program in Worcester, as well as running as a unit in the Third Annual On Guard Initiative 5K, which is dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of mental health and suicide prevention among correction officers.
“All 12 of you graduating here today should be very proud, as you have demonstrated hard work and dedication over the past 12 weeks in overcoming the challenges presented,” Evangelidis said. “I look forward to working with each and everyone of you.”