CCPD holds graduation for Law Enforcement Explorers
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The Copperas Cove Police Department held a graduation ceremony for the 10 graduates from the Law Enforcement Explorers Program academy Friday evening.
The 10 new graduates join eight other cadets in the program. The Explorers Program was relaunched in 2011 and has a capacity for around 25 cadets. Typically, the program sees between eight to 12 graduates a year. There is only one academy course per year, held every summer, with the graduation ceremony always in July.
Lt. Kevin Miller, the community services officer and public information officer for the police department, is also coordinator of the Law Enforcement Explorer Program. Miller has been with the department for 13 years and took over the Explorer program last year. He was able to sit in on the oral boards portion during this year’s LEEP academy, where 10 of the 11 youth passed the boards process.
“I can remember, after sitting through those boards, I was just amazed how bright and how sharp these kids were,” Miller said. “I bragged to several people that these guys did better than a lot of people that apply to be police officers, and I really, really believe that, and several of them I believe would have passed the police officer oral board- they did that good.”
Miller said that every day the training coordinator, Officer Codi Nunez, came to him and told him just how fantastic the cadets in the academy were.
For the past three years, Nunez has been the training coordinator for the program. The LEEP academy is a condensed version of the basic police officer course, with a six-month long course condensed into a three-week class.
The LEEP cadets’ academy was 105 training hours and covered the Texas Penal Code, Texas Traffic Code, Police Policy and Code of Criminal Procedures.
“While learning these subjects, they’ve also learned a little about themselves,” Nunez said. “They recognize the greatness they have to offer and the maturity it takes to service the public. These newfound ventures are displayed here but also at home as told by some of their parents. In three weeks, the cadets have crafted a new version of themselves which will continue to blossom into being a guardian for their community. All of this which started with a calling, and a calling that most do not have, or they ignore.”
The cadets underwent a written test, a physical fitness test, a background check and review of their academic performance and an oral board, as well as a psychological evaluation.
Only those who stood out among their peers were selected.
“The new Explorers understand the importance of their role,” Nunez said. “They will now go out into the community and apply themselves to help enrich the lives of others and provide a gleaming example of excellence. Regardless of their age, the selfless actions of volunteering, will be a prime depiction of what it means to be a public servant.”
Chief of Police Eddie Wilson thanked the parents for allowing the Copperas Cove Police Department to take part in helping with their children.
“We’ve lost connection that term of ‘It takes a village.’ It does take a village, but we quit trusting that village, and I say that because that’s why this is so important to us because you as parents, are putting that trust in us that you typically did not put in other organizations or people, and that means a lot to us,” Wilson said.
Krista Gray, 18, graduated from high school this past May. She joined the Law Enforcement Explorers Program after hearing about it from friends who were in the program, and she says it changed her mind on her possible career path.
“I had known nothing about law enforcement but being able to join the program and learn more about it really made me interested in changing my career and considering to be a first responder and maybe a police officer,” Gray said. “Prior to being a first responder, I was considering just being an RN. I planned on going to CTC to get my degree in nursing, but now I’m more considering I probably might be a police officer.”
Gray said that being part of the Law Enforcement Explorer Program really provided her with a lot of support.
“It’s really a family organization,” Gray said. “We all care for each other, whether it be the people in your class or the seniors or even the coordinators themselves. They’ve got a lot of support, whether it be education or with your learning or outside personal things and things that apply to the program, and while they lift each other up, they also dedicate themselves heavily to their community and just really making sure that our city is safe.”
Gray’s favorite part of the LEEP academy was getting to perform an investigation exercise with the officers of the Criminal Investigation Division.
“I just really love doing the program,” Gray said. “It really changed who I am as a person. I really enjoyed being able to help others and this program being a part of it just really inspired me to change my career path and really dedicate myself more to my community than I already have.”
This year’s new Explorers cadets are Jacob Swope, Krista Gray, Jeremy Billingsley, Audri Guerrero, Esra Peterson, Coalton McLaughlin, Patrick Reed, Markel Rodriguez, Johnathan Adkins and Tayler Stokes.