East Texas Police Academy graduates were ‘special’ and smart

Only five and a half points separated first and last in latest class

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

May 13, 2007 - There was no doubt Chris Bassham would be valedictorian of East Texas Police Academy’s Sulphur Springs Night Class IV.

Staff Photo by Angela Pitts

Valedictorian Chris Bassham receives his hard-earned certificate from East Texas Police Academy Director Brian Ruthven (2nd from right) during the academy’s graduation held Thursday night at New Beginnings Fellowship Church. Bassham graduated with a 100 grade point average, while salutatorian/class president Gary McLarry (not shown) followed close behind by less than one point Jason Poteet (far left, clapping) was given the “Top Gun” Marksmanship Award. Eighth District Judge Robert Newsom (far right) was the keynote speaker during the graduation of Class VI.

The cadet graduated Thursday night with a 100 average, only the second time in the Sulphur Springs academy’s history that a student has scored so high in the class, according to lead instructor Andy Chester.

Jason Poteet also went home with an award for being the “Top Gun” for the best marksmanship in the class during training and testing exercises.

�This class was really special,� Chester said. �Only about 5 and a half points separated number one from number 18 in the class.�

But Chester said the class was remarkable in many ways, including the fact that they already exhibited the qualities he believes are required in an officer. That included their dedication to studies, compassion for each other in times of personal loss, the way they handle themselves when dealing with adversity, and their common sense.

He also challenged them to continue to seek higher education.

�Practice your skills so that you can defend yourself and the people you�re out there to serve,� Chester said in his final words of encouragement to the class. �Remember who you serve and do the best job possible. Remember your family. They have supported you these last months. Don�t forget to love them.�

East Texas Police Academy Director Brian Ruthven reminded them to hold fast to their belief in a deity as they have done during the months of the class, both independently and together.

Staff Photo by Angela Pitts

Graduates Dustyn Wright (left) and salutatorian/class president Gary McLarry (right) surprise ETPC Director Brian Ruthven, an obvious “Longhorns” fan, with a brand new Stetson hat on behalf of Class VI.

Eighth Judicial District Judge Robert Newsom, who delivered the keynote address, encouraged them to follow the words in the Bible in Micah 6:8: “To do justice, love mercy and walk only with your God.”

�If everything we do is pure, right and true, then we�ve done justice,� said Newsom, who began his career in law as a police officer more than 20 years ago.

For mercy, he gave an example of an officer stopping a man who “had been to prison once, was headed in the wrong direction, headed back there.” The officer, instead of arresting or citing the man, let him go as an act of mercy. Two weeks later, the man “gave his life to God” and has since turned his life around and positively impacted hundreds, maybe even thousands of people.

�Use your influence for good, to be positive for the community and to help people,� Newsom said. �Also, make arrests well. Make them right. Use your discernment.�

He said that a number of years ago, he began starting every day in prayer asking that he live up to Micah 6:8. 

�It changed my life for good. I can change your life for good, too,� Newsom said.

The graduates also presented different mementos and “awards” to the various individuals who provided instruction at the academy.

The 18 cadets receiving diplomas during Thursday night’s graduation were Chris Bassham, Tony Beaver, Cory Brookshire, Marcus Cantera, C.D. Dial, Tim Hall, Stewart Ham, James Hildebrand, Allen Johnson, Jake Krodle, Larry Maynard, Gary McLarry, Catherine Minick, Jason Poteet, Baret Sanders, Nick Tredway, David Turner and Dustyn Wright.

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