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Three boys who have cancer sworn in as officers for a day

After getting their own badges, Jesse, Zachary and Sean raised their right hands and were officially sworn in, in front of their parents and Suffolk police department staff.

Zachary Cote, 9, of Miller Place, one of three friends undergoing cancer treatment who were sworn in as police officers for the day Wednesday in a surprise ceremony in Yaphank, explained why he thinks he'll make a good officer.  (Credit: James Carbone)

Three friends who lost some of their childhood years to cancer treatment got a day back Wednesday from Suffolk police. 

The trio — Jesse Pallas, 11, of Miller Place, Zachary Cote, 9, of Miller Place, and Sean Hughes, 10, of Port Jefferson — were sworn in as officers for the day in a surprise ceremony at 11 a.m. The boys had been told they would be touring Suffolk police headquarters in Yaphank.

The boys, who met at an event for families dealing with childhood cancer, had bonded over wanting to be police officers when they grow up.

“A lot of other kids don’t get to do this,” said Sean, who has lymphoma.  

Sean’s brother, Kyle, 8, also joined the trio.

After getting their own badges — and a giggly pause to remember which hand is right — they raised their right hands and were officially sworn in, in front of their parents and department staff.

“We did a little bit of homework and some investigating,” police Commissioner Geraldine Hart told the boys. “We discovered that you guys have the qualities that make an exceptional police officer. You’re honest, you’re kind and you’re nice to your friends at school.”

Outside, officers from different units showed them their gear. They tried on tactical gear, which overwhelmed Zachary's body as he giggled.

Jesse, who has leukemia, was most excited about being given a stack of baseball cards featuring the department’s dogs, some of whom he met outside police headquarters.

“Is he friendly?” he asked an officer holding onto a dog’s leash.

“Very friendly,” the officer replied, as Jesse smiled.

The boys and their families met last year at an event hosted by the Thomas Scully Foundation, which supports childhood cancer patients. Then, this summer, Zachary and his parents met a Suffolk County police sergeant at another cancer event, Hart said.

The sergeant told the department about the boys and officials organized a special day for them.

“After 34 years in the department, if you asked me to sum up what the police does, in very, very short terms — I’d say we help people,” Chief of Department Stuart Cameron said.

Around 2:30 p.m., the boys ended their day with a "walk-out," a send-off ceremony usually organized for high-ranking officers who retire.

For the Cote family, the surprise came at the right time, said Glen Cote, Zachary's father. Zachary has medulloblastoma, a form of brain cancer.

"It's really important that we get to put a smile on his face," Cote said. 

Jesse's mother, Fariba Pallas, said her son was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 4. The years of treatment have put him behind in school, but he has never given up hope of one day becoming a police officer. 

Jesse has dressed as a police officer for Halloween every year, she said. 

"It's hard to put in words what our kids go through every day," she said. "It's the happiest day when we see a child smiling."  

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