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Police recruits study tolerance at Holocaust center

Twenty-five future police officers received a lesson about tolerance and the use of authority Tuesday at the Nassau County Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center.

"We owe it to our law enforcement officials and to the public to do everything in our power to train our public servants to not only fight crime, but to fight prejudice, prejudgment and intolerance," said Howard S. Maier, chairman of the Glen Cove-based center.

Tuesday's group of recruits, who are in the midst of their seven-month training at the Nassau County Police Department's academy, are destined for jobs in village police departments, SUNY Old Westbury, and the state attorney general's office.

But first, they had to navigate the four-hour Holocaust program, which guided them through lessons about law enforcement's role during the Holocaust, and asked them to examine their own ideas about tolerance and bias.

The program is a mandatory part of training at the Nassau and Suffolk police academies and is paid for by the Holocaust center.

Shevy Berkovits, 31, a police officer in Nassau County's Fourth Precinct, went through the program in 2007 and said he learned a lot.

And while some of the recruits in his class had grumbled that morning about having to go through the program, by the end, "a lot of them felt that the one day we spent here just wasn't enough," said Berkovits, who spoke to reporters at the center before recruits arrived.

Tuesday, the group of recruits walked through the newly remodeled museum and read mini-biographies of different Holocaust victims, including Catholic and homosexual people along with Jews.

Later, a representative from the Anti-Defamation League led the group in a discussion about bias and prejudice, and encouraged them to examine their own biases.

Karen O'Callaghan, Nassau police's chief of department, said she believes the program teaches a valuable lesson.

"My hope for our recruits is they remember the lessons of the Holocaust that they will learn today, so that as they take to the streets they are able to feel compassion and understanding for all the people that they meet along the way," she said.

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