By Taylor Short
The Cove Herald
The latest graduates of the Copperas Cove Citizens Police Academy completed the 25th session of the course last Thursday, helping to bridge the gap between officers and those they protect and serve.
The academy began in 1997 and includes a 10-week course covering everything from traffic stop procedures and officer safety to firearm training and SWAT techniques.
Lt. Daniel Austin has operated the program twice a year since 1999 and considers it as beneficial to the police department as it is for the citizens. The graduation ceremony was held March 18 at the Grace United Methodist Church in Copperas Cove.
"To me, it's the culmination of all the friendship and camaraderie we developed over the past ten weeks because all of these folks here came out three hours a night each Thursday and gave their time to learn about us," he said. "We've had a whole lot of success with this program and it's opened a lot of doors for understanding."
To be eligible for the academy, a person must live or work in Copperas Cove, must be 18 and should have no felony convictions or be under investigation or indictment. Those in the military are also welcome, Austin said.
The 10 cadets, donning matching blue shirts, chatted with police officials and members of the Copperas Cove Police Academy Alumni Association before having dinner at the graduation.
The cadets come from all walks of life, ranging from technology specialists to novelists. While they got involved for different reasons, they all said they would recommend it to anyone.
"My only complaint is that it was over too fast," said Bruce Coons, who works on Fort Hood. He said his favorite topic covered the SWAT operations from the classroom and later gave them hands on training with firearms and police equipment.
Coons joined the program with his son, Mark, who works in technology for S.C. Junior High School in Copperas Cove.
"The animal control night was interesting. I definitely plan to go volunteer and help out now," he said. "It's just important to have the day-to-day awareness of what the police do as we go about our civilian business and the understanding of the job they do."
After everyone ate, Jack Welch, Copperas Cove athletic director and newly appointed police chaplain, spoke to the class about the importance of volunteerism.
"Being a volunteer is what life is all about," he said. "The best teams I ever had have been teams made up of characters, teams that are willing to sacrifice, to work, to make things happen, to go the extra mile for the fellow man."
In addition to the Coons, Henry Blair, Michael Chastain, Silvia Chastain, George W. Covert, Jr., Meoh McNally, C.J. Sowell, Lynette Sowell and Donna Utley stepped up and received a certificate from Deputy Chief Mike Heintzelman as Austin announced the names.
Copperas Cove Police Academy Alumni Association founders Chuck Holley and his wife Anne are permanent figures with the academy having been a part of the first class to graduate back in November 1997.
"It was a little different because there weren't as many things that they do now like with the gun range and a lot of the high tech stuff that is coming into play now."
Holley said he has even offered his home and his acting skills to stage domestic disturbances for new officers in training.
After the graduates sat back down, Police Chief Tim Molnes thanked the cadets for their attentiveness in class. He extended his welcome to all citizens to visit the new station and emphasized that it is, first and foremost, the public's building.