7-year-old 'Officer Zach' become honorary North Adams police officer for a day


Photo Gallery | 7-year-old 'Officer Zach' Hillard

NORTH ADAMS -- Zach Hillard really wanted to tour the North Adams Police Department -- and to put his mom in handcuffs.

But police and fire officials went one step further for the Brayton Elementary School first-grader Tuesday morning.

Zach, 7, was named an honorary police officer for the day, earning him the chance to travel in a police cruiser and even make an arrest. After a tour of the police and fire departments, he returned to his school in a fire truck with a police escort and was greeted by numerous classmates and faculty members.

"I did pretty good I think, " he said.

And on his reception, he added: "It's good to know they're here for me."

Zach, who has cerebral palsy and requires crutches or a walker, will undergo an invasive surgery on his legs this June. North Adams Police Det. Mark Bailey said he and others heard about his wish to see the police department, and did everything possible to make it happen.

"He's going to be laid up for the whole summer," Bailey said. "This will be something to think about then, something to remember. ... And it was a good day to show him everything we have going on in the public safety departments, too."

Zach and Bailey left Brayton just after 10 a.m. in cruiser No. 24 -- with lights blaring on a "hot call" at the Hillard family's home on Protection Avenue. Bailey sounded the cruiser's siren as he pulled into the driveway.

As a result of Zach's investigation, it was determined his mother, Heather Blake, had to be taken down to the station. It was his job to handcuff his mother while his father, Jeff Hillard, looked on.

"You need to pat her down and check her for weapons," Bailey said.

Zach frisked his mother and pulled a small, plastic bag from her rear right pocket -- it contained a suspicious substance.

"Is that real or fake?" he exclaimed, causing his mother to laugh and to assure him it was fake.

Once he secured his mother in the cruiser's back seat, Zach returned to the station to book her.

Bailey walked him through taking a mug shot of his mother before leading her into the women's holding cell in the rear of the police station. Blake only had a brief sentence for good behavior and was released after two minutes.

Zach saw the full police station, from the dispatch center to the detective office. His fellow officers and Police Director Michael Cozzaglio congratulated him on his recent appointment to the force.

"You're on the job one day and already made an arrest," Lt. David Sacco said.

"Yeah, but I'm waiting for a real one," Zach said.

Zach's morning also included a tour of the fire station, where he received gifts from Fire Director Stephen A. Meranti, got an up close look at the fire trucks, and even got to spray a fire hose.

And in a brief stop at city hall, Mayor Richard J. Alcombright gave Zach words of encouragement for his upcoming surgery.

Wrapping up his first day on the force, Zach observed: "It's a really busy job."


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