Eighteen cadets from Richmond Community College’s Basic Law Enforcement Training program have the distinction of being the first graduating class from the new program, which posted a 100 percent passage rate on the state licensing exam to become BLET certified. They participated in graduation ceremonies Wednesday at the Cole Auditorium.
RCC Public Services Chairman John Robich was the keynote speaker and holds the distinction of having started RCC’s Criminal Justice program in 1974. He was one of three speakers to encourage graduates to continue their education and to remember the importance of family.
“You have had 19 highly trained instructors who carried you through 655 hours of training in 35 subjects including 20 hours of testing. We have many law enforcement officers in our service area with master’s degrees. I encourage you to begin your education here and take advantage of the many programs that have developed to make this possible,” he said.
Robich encouraged the graduates to make the law enforcement profession better than they found it and to contribute to law enforcement organizations. He also told them to treat victims and suspects the same by being kind, noting that each “When you go to a crime scene, protect it as if it were your child so specialists can investigate the crime thoroughly and successfully. Stay awake, be alert, and patrol proactively,” he said.
Rockingham Police Department Assistant Chief Major Billy Kelly is the program coordinator. Hamlet Police Department Detective Lieutenant Scott Waters serves as assistant coordinator. Kelly thanked law enforcement officers from Richmond and Scotland counties, from the State Bureau of Investigation, and from the North Carolina Highway Patrol for serving as instructors.
Kelly presented four awards to graduates. Matthew West of Hamlet received the Firearms award. George Bolger of Rockingham received the Police Officer Physical Agility Test award. James Niemyer of Hamlet received two awards: Highest Grade Point Average and Best Overall Cadet.
Scotland County Sheriff’s Office Investigative Sergeant Earl Haywood was a key instructor who wanted to give back to his profession and offered his 13 years of experience in the field to the cadets.
“I asked the cadets where they wanted to be in five years. Each had an achievable goal. Statistics show that at five years you’ll know whether you’ll stay in the profession. I believe each one will,” he said.
N.C. Highway Patrol First Sergeant Mitch Foard has just retired, yet said he viewed the graduates with envy. He assisted with the physical training component of the program.
“We all look forward to retirement, which is bittersweet, but I would do it all over again in a minute. Law enforcement is not a job; it is a career. It’s like a calling into the ministry; you have to have that feeling down deep. You need to keep three things in order as you begin your law enforcement careers: God, family, and your law enforcement agency. You’ll slip and put the job first because you’re going to love it, but you need to focus on God and family to keep you balanced,” he said.
He reminded them to always do the right thing, to look out for their coworkers, and to remember that all eyes are upon them.
“You won’t get a lot of thanks and will get a lot of criticism, but remember, people look up to you. Always set a good example, especially for little kids,” he said.
Graduates from Hamlet are Alexander Leviner, Bahnson Edwards, Charles Downer, James Niemyer, Jeffrey Wright, Joseph Martin, Matthew West, and Steven Dixon.
Graduates from Rockingham are Christopher Turner, David Gallops, George Bolger, Jacob Davis, John Baker, Robert Gardner, Ronald Brigman, Russell Watson, and Travis Wilkerson.
Amy Locklear of Laurinburg was the only female in the course.
All law enforcement officers must have a BLET certificate before beginning their duties. Space is still available for the upcoming class of 2010 which begins March 1st. Applications are available from receptionists in the RCC Lee Building on the Hamlet campus.