Wojnar, Belanger graduate from Sheriff’s Office Academy

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Wojnar, Belanger graduate from Sheriff’s Office Academy
Grafton’s Officer Nicholas Wojnar and Marlborough’s Officer Stephen Belanger were among the graduates. (Photo/Submitted)

WORCESTER – In December, Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis administered the correctional officers oath to the 20 graduating recruits of the Sheriff Office’s 58th Basic Recruit Training Academy at Anna Maria College. 

Among the 20 graduates were Grafton resident Officer Nicholas Wojnar and Marlborough resident Officer Stephen Belanger.

As president of the graduating class, Wojnar delivered remarks to his fellow graduates and their families and friends. Wojnar took the opportunity to recall the challenges the group faced throughout the academy and the amusing memories that brought the group closer together.

The Worcester County Sheriff’s office has remained committed to hiring a diverse workforce to better meet the needs of the population they serve. The graduates of BRTA #58 are a well-rounded group of recruits. The newly sworn-in corrections officers represent 12 towns in Massachusetts and one in Connecticut. Nearly 50% of the class is composed of veterans or reservists. Moreover, there are at least four different languages spoken by various members of the recruit class.

The Sheriff’s Office Academy is a 12-week paid program that consists of both classroom and hands-on instruction in which recruits are taught how to handle and maintain the care, custody and control of inmates incarcerated at the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction. 

Important topics such as de-escalation, duty to intervene, fire safety, defensive tactics, first responder training, suicide prevention, mental health, and substance abuse are covered in the classroom. Hands-on training consists of physical fitness, CPR/first responder, firearms, skid school and many other scenario-based exercises.

“Our new officers have just completed 12 weeks of rigorous training and are now among the best and brightest in corrections today,” said Evangelidis. “Each has demonstrated great strength and resolve, as they have navigated the academy, and will now continue our mission to serve, protect, and create a better, more safe community for all.”

Since taking office, Evangelidis has made significant changes to the hiring standards to professionalize the department. All correctional officer applicants must have, at minimum, an associate’s degree, two years of military service or two years of relevant work experience. They must also pass a written exam, physical fitness test, background check and psychological screening test. 

Evangelidis has also implemented a policy that prohibits the submission of letters of recommendation from politicians and gives preference to hiring those who have served the country.