Finger Lakes Law Enforcement Academy recruits complete grueling 26-week training

CANANDAIGUA — Ontario County Sheriff’s Deputy April Rider’s voice was clear and powerful Monday as she stood before Finger Lakes Law Enforcement Academy officials, educators, fellow recent graduates and family members in the Canandaigua Academy auditorium.

The 2019 FLLEA class representative recounted to hundreds in attendance the intense and comprehensive 26-week training program she and fellow law enforcement recruits had survived in order to cross the finish line at Monday’s graduation ceremony.

Rider was one of six women in a class of 31, involving eight law enforcement agencies, including Ontario, Cayuga, Livingston and Wayne county sheriff’s departments, and Seneca Falls, Geneva, Penn Yan and Waterloo police departments.

“Standing here talking to all of you is the proudest moment I have experienced in my life to date,” said Rider.

“I am beyond happy to know that in some way we will all be able to bring safety and a sound mind to all the counties and towns in which we serve,” she said on behalf of fellow graduates. “We will be there on the toughest days and the happiest ones. No matter what, you can count on us to be there for you.”

Ontario County Sheriff Kevin Henderson welcomed seven recruits from the class — Karl Burkhardt, April Rider, Taylor Welytok, David Keirsbilck, Aubrey Needham, Dylan LaBrake and Stephen Decker — who are now on patrol as Ontario County Sheriff’s deputies.

“I’m proud of the 31 men and women who spent 26 weeks of their lives to go through this Academy,” said Henderson. “We take pride as sheriffs and chiefs to make sure we give them the education, the training, the tools necessary to go out and do the job, because it’s a dangerous career. They’ll be out on their own, taking calls for service.”

Cayuga County Sheriff Brian Schenk welcomed three graduates to his team — Brandon Androsko, Jerry Field II and Nikki Loveless.

“They did a great job,” he said. “I’m really impressed and I think there’s a lot of great recruits. I’m excited for all the agencies that are getting new people.”

Michael Crisafulli of Ontario was in the audience with a battalion of family members cheering on his son, Cameron Crisafulli.

“He achieved his goal,” said Crisafulli of his son, one of the new Wayne County sheriff’s deputies and a Criminal Justice graduate of Finger Lakes Community College. “He tried to get in for three years, and he’s never given up on anything that he’s done — from being a football player, to being in the National Guard, to being a police officer.”

“We’re very proud of him,” said Crisafulli. “He never gave up and this is what happens. It’s what he wants.”

Rider reflected on the connections made over 26 weeks at FLLEA.

“Being in these types of stressful situations obviously brings you closer to each other — we’re lifelong friends,” she said. “I’m happy for them, I hope they do well in the future.”

Leading the ceremony Monday were Finger Lakes Law Enforcement Academy Chair and Wayne County Sheriff Barry Virts; Yates County Sheriff Ronald Spike; FLLEA Director of Training David Christler; and officers Ryan Burnett, Stephen DeChick, Tatle Colburn and Seth Jones of the Ontario County Sheriff’s Office and Andrew Hares of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office.

The Galen Jeffrey Herren Memorial Award was presented by George Herren to class valedictorian, Wayne County Sheriff’s Deputy Theodore Kugler.