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Coming To America, to Protect and Serve

CVTC Law Enforcement Academy graduate Edward Bell came from Germany to start a career

It takes many different skills to be an effective law enforcement officer in Wisconsin. Being fluent in three languages is not generally among them. But that’s an extra ability Edward Bell brings to the table as he seeks his first job as a full-time officer after gaining his certification through the Law Enforcement Academy offered at Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC).

Bell, a native of Germany with full American citizenship, was one of 23 Academy graduates to receive certification at a ceremony at CVTC Friday.

The 13-week Academy program consists of a series of classes held five days a week, eight hours a day, leading up to the granting of the certificate needed for employment as a public law enforcement officer in Wisconsin. A major requirement for admission is a minimum of 60 college-level credits, according to Eric Anderson, associate dean of the Emergency Services programs at CVTC.

CVTC’s program is highly regarded, and Academy students can come from all over the state. Bell came across the ocean.

“Ever since I knew what a police officer was, I wanted to be one,” says Bell, 22, who was born and raised in Bitburg, on the far western side of Germany.

“My father was originally from Eau Claire. He was in the Air Force and was stationed in Bitburg, and met my mother there,” Bell explains. His mother came to Eau Claire, where she married Gregory Bell. They moved back to Germany in 1987.

Edward therefore has lifetime dual citizenship in both countries.

“When I started speaking, I spoke English to my dad and German to my mother, so I grew up bilingual. They thought I might want to move here someday, and saved up money for me to come,” he says.

As he finished the German equivalent of high school, Bell knew what he wanted to do and where he wanted to do it. With a much lower crime rate, law enforcement work is much safer in Germany, and therefore a much sought-after job. Opportunities are greater in the United States, which offers other advantages as well.

He came to the Eau Claire area, where he has relatives, got a job with a private security company, and started picking up his required college credits at UWEC. He entered the Academy with a good foundation, but still with a lot to learn.

“I had been reading about law enforcement all my life,” he says. “But when I came here (to the Academy), I found there were a lot of things I didn’t know.

“I am very impressed with at the level of experience of the instructors here, like an instructor with three black belts and SWAT team experience. It’s very high quality,” Bell says.

“I always consider myself a people person, but I learned a lot from the Professional Communications class, like separating a couple on a domestic calls and letting them know you are a person who is there to help them,” he continues.

Bell sees his international background as an asset. He studied French for eight year in school, since he grew up so close to the French border, making him trilingual. He has visited 18 countries. He feels he would be a good fit for a university police department, where the population is more diverse. He’s already had an interview at UW-Eau Claire.

Bell’s law enforcement career could take him in a number of different directions, but he’s quite sure of the location. “I plan to do my entire career here in Wisconsin.”

That’s probably true of most of the Academy graduates, who were welcomed at the ceremony by Eric Anderson, Law Enforcement Academy director and associate dean of Emergency Services at CVTC. Each Academy graduating class chooses one of its members to address the class at the ceremony. The class chose Mitchell Hunsley, who was sponsored by the Eau Claire Police Department, where he will be beginning his career.

The featured speaker was Sparta, Wis. Chief of Police Mike Kass, whose son, Luke, is among the graduates. Luke will be working at the Black River Falls Police Department.

Chief Kass told the graduates the title of “Officer” comes with great responsibility, and reminded them that their education is not over after completing the Academy.

“Today’s police officer can shift roles from crime fighter to therapist to social worker to family counselor to problem solver all in matter of minutes. The Academy has done its best to prepare you for the demands of the profession, but much is yet to be learned and experienced.  Education is a lifelong process, embrace it!” he said.