At the conclusion of the 10-month Cass County Sheriff’s Office Regional Training Academy, Director Craig McMein told his recruit class that law enforcement can an eventful, adventure-filled career as a public servant.
“Buckle up and enjoy the ride. It’s the greatest show on earth,” McMein said to the members of the 13-01 class during their graduation exercises Nov. 20 at Belton High School. “I am honored to have served you and hope that your career is full of excitement and adventure.”
The ceremony recognized 17 men, ranging in ages from 20 to 58, who completed the 624-hour program.
“The most rewarding aspect of being the director is watching the recruits develop their skills and mature into potential peace officers,” McMein said. “As an instructor, you may see a specific skill, but as the director, your see the overall process and transformation.”
Earlier in the week, all 17 of the recruits passed the Missouri POST exam, a qualification for Class A Law Enforcement certification and to become a peace officer in the state of Missouri.
The 200-question exam covers the objectives learned throughout the academy, which began in February, including constitutional law, Missouri statutory law, firearms, driving, defensive tactics, first responder and criminal investigation.
The test requires a passing score of at least 70 percent.
“I have referred to the recruits as my kids, so like any parent would be, I’m very proud of their accomplishments,” McMein said.
Graduation from the academy is a rite of passage for many of the recruits who labored over the course of the program.
“Their new chosen profession will give them a feeling of pride, great responsibility, and at times, emotions beyond description,” Sheriff Dwight Diehl said. “They will experience humor beyond imagination, and other times, sadness that has never been experienced by anyone.”
The CCSO began hosting law enforcement academies in 2008 for the Missouri Sheriff’s Association, with classes being taught by Cass County deputies and police officers from around the Kansas City area.
But in October last year, Cass County received unanimous approval by the Missouri Police Officers Standards and Training Commission Board to become their own licensed training center, the first sheriff’s office in Missouri to do so.
“We believe it is our responsibility to provide accessible training to agencies in our region,” said Diehl, at the start of the program. “As part of a rural region, we understand how important it is to provide training that is rural-specific and located within close proximity.”
Recruit graduate Derek Van Brunt, 43, Peculiar, said participation in the academy has reaffirmed him of a career that he’s been interested in for a long time.
Van Brunt, who currently works in construction, said he will soon be looking for employment as a peace officer.
“I’ve waited many years,” Van Brunt said. “I have always wanted to do this, but I always had other commitments that prevented me.”
During the academy, all of the recruits also had to go through several real-life exercises in addition to classroom instruction, such as being tased and taking an eyeful of pepper spray (OC) during a staged obstacle course.
“The taser is horrible, and the spray, I’m not interested in doing that again,” Van Brunt said.
While the program is both academically and physically demanding, McMein said the most challenging aspect for recruits in the academy is making the adjustment between being a civilian and becoming a police officer.
Since the start of the program, McMein told recruits that wearing a law enforcement uniform comes with an extreme amount of responsibility.
“The adjustment...can be difficult,” McMein said. “It is very common for recruits to lose friends after the academy starts because of the choices that have or continue to be made.”
However, the career is one that can reap satisfaction by protecting civilians and upholding up the law.
“From this point forward, professional will be expected from you through the remainder of your career. You are now a public servant and must respect those that you serve,” McMein said.
A handful of the 13-01 class graduates have already secured jobs in their new career field.
Four of the graduating recruits have accepted employment from the Cass County Sheriff’s Office in either a full-time or reserve status. Another recruit has accepted a position with Garden City and at least another half-dozen recruits have applied at neighboring agencies and are in the process of obtaining employment, which can take between 3-6 months to complete.
The recruits who have accepted employment were dressed in their new uniforms and were pinned with badges at the graduation ceremony.
Class President Jacob Hensley took time to thank the academy’s instructors for sharing their knowledge, skills and experience.
“Stay safe, Class 13-01, and know that we’re all internally grateful to you for putting your life on the line to protect us and those we love,” Hensley told the recruits. “May God bless you and protect you throughout your career.”
Cass County Sheriff’s Office Reserve Deputy Teddy Bitner was the guest speaker at the graduation.
Bitner earned the rank of colonel with the United States Army, and during the course of his military career, held many positions of leadership. In 2009, Bitner attended the Missouri Sheriff’s Training Academy and later became employed by the Cass County Sheriff’s Office. He also serves as vice president, academic dean, and director of security, at Calvary Bible College and Theological Seminary.
He encouraged graduates to possess competence, humility, integrity and perseverance within their careers.
“Whether it’s a brain surgeon or a farmer, a soldier or police officer, a janitor or a rocket scientist, each job requires certain specific skills,” Bitner said. “The bottom line is work hard, get competent.”
The CCSO will host another academy next year. The program will begin Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, and will be in session until next November.
“While I may be a little bias, our academy has and will continue to produce quality recruits that will excel at their respective agencies,” McMein said. “Our instructors have over 250 years of real-world experience. They were hand-picked and are the best the area has to offer.”
Applications for the program will be accepted through Friday, Jan. 10, 2014.
“If you are serious about pursuing a career in law enforcement, do your homework,” McMein said.
McMein encourages those who are interested in the career to seek out area law enforcement personnel and speak with them about their department or office.
“If you want to do, you just need to commit to it and jump in,” Van Brunt added.