Friday, October 16, 2020

COVID Doesn’t Stop CVTC Law Enforcement Academy

Graduation of summer group help partially virtually

Eau Claire, WI – Following a virtual and socially distanced graduation ceremony Oct. 14, the 16 members of the Chippewa Valley Technical College Law Enforcement Academy Summer 2020 graduating class went outside the Emergency Services Education Center and found they were not so alone after all.

Usually, family members of the graduates and representatives of the law enforcement departments attend the ceremony, but because of COVID-19, the graduates sat six feet apart, while family members followed the proceedings online. Later, they found a group of family members and well-wishers gathered outside, holding congratulatory signs and presenting flowers to them in a show of support.

Among those being congratulated were Kelly O’Brien, a new officer with the Fall Creek Police Department, as well as Kyle Holden and Justin Malean, two friends from the 2018 Boyceville High School graduating class, who are joining the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department.

Being a law enforcement officer in Wisconsin takes a great deal of training. A minimum of 60 college credits are required to enroll in the Academy. Many go through CVTC’s two-year Criminal Justice-Law Enforcement program, or through a university or other technical college.

Law Enforcement Academy Director Eric Anderson said the 720-hour academy instructs the recruits in six areas: policing in America, tactical skills, patrol procedures, legal context, relational skills and investigations. Completion of training at a Law Enforcement Academy is required to become certified as a law enforcement officer in Wisconsin. However, officers can start work with a department before completing the training.

The Fall Creek Police Department hired O’Brien about two weeks before the graduation. She had been working with them as an intern. Originally from the East Coast and part of a military family, O’Brien moved to the Eau Claire area to be closer to family. She had been managing a retail store.

“I decided I wanted to do something more fulfilling for me,” O’Brien said. “My family has a strong military background, and that life of service is something I always admired.” She enrolled in CVTC’s Criminal Justice-Law Enforcement program to earn her 60 credits, then joined the Academy.

Holden and Malean said they were close friends in high school and both chose the same career path, entering the CVTC Criminal Justice-Law Enforcement program, then enrolling in the academy. However, according to Malean, it wasn’t something they decided to do together. It just worked out that way.

“I knew what I wanted to do when I was a junior in high school,” Malean said. “I have family in law enforcement. My step-dad was the chief of police in Spring Valley and my mom was an officer in Balsam Lake.

Holden said he also decided in high school that we wanted to be a law enforcement officer. “It gives me an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives,” he said. “And joining the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department allows me to serve the community that supported me and that I grew up in.”

Samantha Caress, another graduate joining the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department, was chosen by her classmates to be the student speaker at the ceremony.

“We worked for 720 hours, had three grueling exams and did about 900 push-ups,” Caress said. “During our time together, we shared many special moments. Now we promise to make our departments and our communities proud.”

In his remarks as the guest speaker for the ceremony, UW-Eau Claire Police Department Chief Jay Dobson acknowledged that the graduates were entering the law enforcement field at a difficult time, when there is deep-seeded resentment toward law enforcement among many people, especially among minority groups.

“Perform within the parameters of your training, your department policies and the law,” he said. “You are on the front lines. Remember to treat people with dignity and respect and exercise discretion.”

Dobson, who also serves as a part-time Academy instructor, expressed his confidence that the graduates are up to the challenge. “In my opinion and in the staff’s opinion, you are some of the best trained recruits, not only in the nation, but in the world.”

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