On the last day the Washtenaw Community College Police Academy Class of 2019 would be together, class president Justin Duong reflected back on the very first day.
“I’m sure most of us went home sore and scared about what was going to come over the next 18 weeks,” Duong said during Friday’s graduation ceremony in Towsley Auditorium. "As the days passed, acquaintances turned to friendships and we turned into the cohesive team you see before you today.”
Duong joked that “nothing brings people together more than mutual suffering” before ending his speech by stating “we promise to make our departments, our communities and our families proud.”
The 28-member class is certainly a successful one. During the ceremony, WCC Dean of Advanced Technologies and Public Service Careers Brandon Tucker told the auditorium filled with recruits’ family and friends and fellow law enforcement officers that every member of the Class of 2019 passed its MCOLES licensing exam on the first attempt and every graduate was already hired or was in the process of finalizing employment with an agency, raising the WCC Police Academy placement rate within 60 days of graduation to 97 percent.
Eleven members of the class were in-service graduates, meaning they had secured employment and were sent through the police academy by their department. Those included Peter Bednarz (Westland Police Department), Summer Chalfin (Westland Police Department), Zachary Clifton (Lenawee County Sheriff’s Office), Dustin Cox (Oak Park Department of Public Safety), Melissa Downer (Ann Arbor Police Department), Austin Giarmo (Wayne County Airport Police), Seth Howard (Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office), Stevie Michaels (Ann Arbor Police Department), Cameron Plofchan (Westland Police Department), Jason Polger (Ann Arbor Police Department) and Michael Ross (Ann Arbor Police Department).
Of the 17 members of the Class of 2019 that entered the academy as a pre-service recruit, one who entered without already being hired by a department, eight of them wore the uniforms of the departments they finalized employment with during the academy. They included William Baiocco (Riverview Police Department), Chance Everidge (Ingham County Sheriff’s Office), Austin Hall (Lenawee County Sheriff’s Office), Kaitlyn Harkai (Riverview Police Department), Joseph Hnatow (Barton Hills Village Police), Jordan Inman (Howell Police Department), Jason Jahn (Lenawee County Sheriff’s Office) and Nathan Woods (Lenawee County Sheriff’s Office).
Preservice graduates who are finalizing their employment include Dustin Badder, Steven Carlson, Scott Donley, Justin Duong, Jonathan Farnsworth, Alex Grice-Jewell, Michael Rockette, Jeffrey Schefsky and Ethan Stoermer.
WCC President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca and Lenawee County Sheriff Troy Bevier both gave addresses to the graduating class and the event included a moment of silence for Troy Stern, a long-time police academy instructor who died in August at the age of 48. Stern worked as a part-time faculty at the academy for 15 years while working with the Tecumseh Police Department, from which he retired as Police Chief in 2018. Upon retirement, Stern became Assistant Director of Operations in WCC’s Public Service Training Department.
After receiving their diplomas, each Police Academy graduate walked through a greeting line of the approximately 50 active and retired police officers in attendance who welcomed them to the profession. Those graduates wearing the uniforms of their hiring agencies then received their badges.
Nathan Woods received the class’ MCOLES Outstanding Recruit Award. Other class awards include:
- High academic average award: Ethan Stoermer
- Physical fitness award: Justin Duong
- Emergency vehicle operation: Joseph Hnatow
- Firearms excellence: Jason Polger
- Firearms instructor award: Jordan Inman
- Subject control excellence award: Nathan Woods
For more information about the WCC Police Academy and WCC Public Service Training, visit policeacademy.wccnet.edu.