The entire pyramid of the criminal justice system begins with good police work.
Bell County District Attorney Henry Garza made sure the most recent batch of Central Texas police officers knew that during his speech Saturday.
Twenty-four cadets graduated from the Central Texas College Police Academy at a ceremony Saturday.
Included among the graduates were two sponsored by the Harker Heights Police Department, one sponsored by the Killeen Police Department, one sponsored by Copperas Cove Police Department and another by the Bell County Sheriff’s Department.
Garza, the district attorney for the past 16 years, was the guest speaker. He reminded the cadets of their importance to the community.
“When a call goes out for help, you go. You don’t ask what, when, where or how, but you respond. And you respond, quite frankly, because there’s someone who needs help,” Garza said. “And that somebody is waiting for that help right now. Seconds and minutes feel like a lifetime, But once they hear that siren coming in the distance, getting closer and closer, the feeling of relief, for that person who needs it, happens.”
Garza stressed the importance of a good investigation. By the time a case reaches his desk, and has to go to trial, the jury depends on evidence found during the police department’s investigation.
They must trust facts gathered by an officer whom they do not know, to make a decision that affects a victim they do not know without any doubt in their minds, he added.
“Your investigation sets the stage of what is happening at my end. And any time it’s lacking, the jury will pick at it, and any time it’s strong they will uphold it,” Garza said. “And so it makes every bit of difference in what you do and the way you conduct your investigations. ... Taking and asking the questions that need to be asked.”
Michael Tutor, a cadet sponsored by the Marble Falls Police Department, received the Dinwiddie Top Gun Award, given to the cadet with the best firearm skills.
The award is named for Charles “Chuck” Dinwiddie, a former leader of the Killeen Police Department’s SWAT team killed in the line of duty May 9, 2014. Dinwiddie’s widow, Holly Dinwiddie, was on hand to present the award.
Tutor also took home the academic award, as he finished the academy with a 97.68 average.
Paul Gauthier was presented the Top Gear award, given to the best driver in the class. Dustin Roscoe was chosen by his peers as the class president, given to the cadet who you would most likely call for backup.
“Let’s take a deep breath now, it’s over,” Roscoe said in his speech. “I believe we are the future of this profession, and it’s up to us to accept the torch from all those who have worked before this.”
The class average for the course was 92 percent, and the average for the state licensing exam was 87 percent, according to academy Director Patrick Boone.
The academy was a 19-week, 720-hour course in which the cadets received hands-on training in defensive tactics, firearms and police vehicle operation, and victims’ rights, among other policing tactics.
The graduates of Central Texas College’s Police Academy were:
- Joshua Bowman (self-sponsored)
- Christie Carter (self-sponsored)
- Dustin Connell of the Bell County Sheriff’s Department
- Jacob Ferguson of the Copperas Cove Police Department
- Paul Gauthier (no agency provided)
- Shana Goodrich of the Rockdale Police Department
- Michael Janzig of the Lexington Police Department
- Roald Jellema of the Harker Heights Police Department
- Warren Jones of the Central Texas College Police Department
- Rafael Melgar-Mejia of the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport Police
- David Morris (self-sponsored)
- Camila Peralta of Central Texas College Police Department
- Heather Rivera (self-sponsored)
- Dustin Roscoe of the Lampasas Sheriff’s Office
- Kevin Sheppard of the Killeen Police Department
- Joshua Shugars (self-sponsored)
- Nicholas Simmons of the Harker Heights Police Department
- Andrew Smolen (self-sponsored)
- Justin Sooter of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
- Brody Telfer of the Belton Police Department
- Michael Tutor of the Marble Falls Police Department
- David Walenta of the Burnet Sheriff’s Department
- Tameka Whigham (self-sponsored)
- Alexander Young (self-sponsored)