LEWISTON -- The Niagara County Law Enforcement Academy has graduated its 71st class of law enforcement recruits.

The graduation took place this week at Niagara University's Lewiston campus where the academy is located.

In a break from recent classes, 15 of the 16 graduates will immediately join local law enforcement agencies. The last few classes at the academy have featured a majority of pre-employment law enforcement graduates.

Jordan Collins and Amber Denman are joining the Falls Police Department and will help to fill current double-digit vacancies on the force.

"Absolutely," Falls Police Superintendent Tom Licata said. "And we can use a lot more (new officers). They're good kids and they worked hard at the academy. I think they're going to be good police officers for us."

Denman and Collins are now in field-training, which places them on patrol, on all three shifts, working with veteran officers to develop their street skills.

"Early indications are that we got a couple of good officers," Licata said. 

The superintendent said another new Falls Police recruit is now training in the academy's 72nd class.

The class also included two new North Tonawanda police officers, a pair of new Niagara County Sheriff's Office deputies and one new officer each in the Lockport and City of Tonawanda Police Departments.

New Lockport Officer David Balduf received the academy's special award for academics. New Niagara County Sheriff's Deputy Samantha Jones received the Jeffrey A. Incardona Memorial Award, named after the sheriff's deputy who was killed in the line of duty.

Niagara County native and Special Agent-in-Charge of the Buffalo Field Office of the FBI, Gary Loeffert, delivered the keynote address to the graduates.

Other award winners included Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Nicholas Chamoun, who received the Physical Fitness award, and Sgt. Jeff Juron, who earned Defensive Tactics Award honors. The Top Gun Award was presented to Genesee County Sheriff's Deputy Kenneth Quackenbush.

Batavia Police Department Officer Wesley Rissinger was given the Joseph E. Stablein Memorial Award. 

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