East Texas Police Academy lead instructor Andy Chester (back) announces Sulphur Springs Fire Capt. Aaron Kager (right) as valedictorian, Glynda Chester congratulates Kager on earning the highest grade point average (99) as she hands him his certificate at the basis peace officer graduation Thursday at Hopkins County Regional Civic Center.
Staff Photo By Sarah Yosten
Fourteen cadets graduate from ETPA
By FAITH HUFFMAN, News-Telegram News-Editor
July 20, 2008 - After about 26 weeks, the 14 students in the East Texas Police Academy basic peace officer certification class passed the course and were awarded certificates for their efforts. But, there's still one last hurdle to be crossed, the state certification test which will be administered Saturday.
Andy Chester, lead instructor for Sulphur Springs Class 8N, told them Thursday night during a graduation service honoring their accomplishment in meeting all class standards that not only would he be there to support them Saturday as they entered and exited the test, he had great confidence all cadets would pass.
"It's been an honor teaching you guys. I'll see you Saturday morning. By about 10 a.m. you should all know whether you passed or not. I'm looking for a 100 percent pass rate. I feel they'll do it," Chester said of the cadets.
Hopkins County Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Ronny Glossup, the key note speaker, also expressed confidence in the class' abilities.
"After about 26 weeks of intensive training, you've been through ups and downs, a few tears and laughs, and a lot of tests. But it's not over yet. You have the state test. You have nothing to worry about. There's noting on the state test you have not covered in class," Glossup said.
Chester noted that the group already has a leg up on some other academies, as ETPA requires each cadet to maintain a grade average of 80 or above on all tests, including Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education and firearms certifications. The state only requires a 70 average or above passing average.
"I don't know about you but I'd much rather hire a guy that can shoot at 80 as opposed to 70 percent," Chester said.
The instructor noted that by signing up for and making it through the class they also demonstrate a key characteristic of good peace officers: they have demonstrated an ability and desire to answer a calling to do something that matters, to serve others.
The class also is the first that is eligible to obtain college credit for the course through Phoenix University, and are probably in better shape than the seven previous classes -- they're the first to have to start physical training. While they were not required to pass PT portion of the class, they were still required to run 1.5 miles, 300 meter sprints, do push ups, sit-ups and vertical jumps.
Another advantage is the high rate of employment of graduates from agencies across the state including Lexington, the Panhandle and West Texas. Several are employed within Hopkins County and others in surrounding agencies. A number ETPA graduates have gone on to become state troopers, police chiefs and ranking officers.
The academy's reputation for turning out quality officers also has area police and sheriff's departments sending recruiters to the class scouting for new recruits for their agencies. Included among those is Mount Pleasant, a city which boasts its own police academy, and an agency which didn't even have any openings at that time, as well as Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Flower Mound and Pittsburg. Sulphur Springs Class 8N is the fourth Chester has had outside agencies recruit in due to high regard for its success.
The top four student averages in the class were separated by only about 1.5 points. But, when the final tally was in Aaron Kager, a captain with Sulphur Springs Fire Department, came in first. He was presented the valedictorian award for finishing the basic peace officer class with a 99 average.
Also recognized for his superior handling of firearms was Wesley Adam Hall. He was presented with the top gun award for marksmanship. Hall is the class president and a second generation police officer his stepfather, Dennis Findley, is a corporal at Hopkins County Sheriff's Office. Findley was awarded the privilege of presenting Hall with his certificate during the graduation ceremony.
Cadets awarded certificates for graduating the class were Cody Allen, Kristina Bryant, James Everett, Amy Guest, Adam Hall, Shane Hawkins, Brandi Hill, Walt Kimmel, Aaron Kager, Ronald Lowrie, Joseph Hudgens, Jacob Stinson, James Tucker, and Terry Yankey.
"We're one of the most dysfunctional misfit families on the face of the state, and I'd be glad to work with each of you," Hall said to the class. "We want to thank our lead instructor, Andy Chester, for giving your time tirelessly to nights. Also thanks to Les Ferguson, Bryan Ruthven, Tony Stone and DPS Jackson. They all gave a lot of time to us. It's been a long, long road."
As a show of appreciation for his efforts, Hall presented Chester with a plaque with a class photo including the lead instructor on it and with a DPMS AR-15 rifle with panther arms.
"This is to show how much we appreciate you. The other classes gave you peace shooters. You can kill with this," Hall joked.
Chester commended the students for their efforts, noting that nearly all of them in addition to attending the class also held down full time jobs during the day.
Hall, like Glossup and Chester, thanked the cadet's families for supporting them and feeling the pressure to succeed in class right along with the students.
"Thank you to the families out there. I know I couldn't have done it without my friends and family, support system.
"You can't say thank you enough to their families," Glossup said. Thank you for being supportive and standing by them.
In closing, Chester challenged the graduates to treat everyone they come into contact with the way they would want to be treated in the same situation, to remember and live by the law enforcement code of ethics, and to trust their abilities which they have demonstrated proficiently throughout the class.
Glossup encouraged them to be the best officers they can be, know that in law enforcement they have another family -- the one they work with and face dangers, share laughter and tears, see some of humanity's worst.
"As officers, the first thing you need to know is that you are a member of two families. You have your biological family and one you go to work with. ... You walk a fine line with your families," he said.
He reminded them the honor in their profession and what the badge they will one day put on represents -- the shield a carry-over from days of knighthood, a duty to protect the brotherhood, family and city.
"You're not seeking a career in law enforcement to become a millionaire. You do it because you want to give back to do something that matters. You have to have a calling or talent for service to do it. It gets in your blood. You're police officers on duty as well as off. .... Extraordinary people, brothers and sisters in arms. As you go, look forward to the difference you make in out society. May God bless you and keep you safe," Glossup said.
ETPA, a division of Kilgore College, has provided law enforcement training since the academy's inception in 1966. ETPA provides a huge array of classes throughout the East Texas Council of Governments and Ark-Tex Council of Governments service areas.
The East Texas Police Academy is licensed by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards And Education as a Law Enforcement Academy and is contracted by the Commission to provide training courses. Law Enforcement Academies licensed by the Commission on Law Enforcement provide basic licensing and continuing education training courses which may be submitted for TCLEOSE credit.
The next police academy night course in Sulphur Springs begins Aug. 4, and applications are still being accepted. Students who wish to complete the 640 Basic Peace Officer Certification training during the Sulphur Springs night class being held at Northeast Texas Regional Fire Academy may call 903-983-8663 or write firstname.lastname@example.org for further information. Forms and applications may be downloaded on the academy website, www.easttexaspoliceacademy.org