The largest group of recruits in the history of the Washtenaw Community College Police Academy celebrated its graduation Friday afternoon, culminating with 36 members of the 41-person Class of 2022 receiving their badge from the law enforcement departments where they’ll start their career.
The class is so large, in fact, that to fulfill ticket requests from graduates’ family and friends, the event was moved from its traditional locale — the 495-seat Towsley Auditorium on the WCC campus —to 2|42 Community Church in Ann Arbor, where an estimated 600 people gathered to join the celebration.
More than 100 of those in attendance were current or retired law enforcement professionals who formed a long greeting line and, one-by-one, welcomed every graduate into the field after they received their certificate.
Remarks were offered by WCC President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca, WCC Vice President Brandon Tucker, Public Service Training Senior Director Joyce VanMeter and Public Service Training Assistant Director Jon Haupt.
Keynote speaker Matthew Harshberger, Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police in Pittsfield Charter Township, extended his appreciation to the graduating class for “having the courage to stand up and be counted on to protect and serve your communities at a time when being a law enforcement officer isn’t looked upon by many as such a glorious and prosperous career choice.”
Harshberger noted that law enforcement is shifting to a more effective and service-friendly operating philosophy that involves community partnerships and problem-solving collaboration.
“It is my hope that, after having been exposed to all of the training and experiences in the police academy during the past few months that you realize how important it is to work hard at what you are called to do, to be dedicated to helping your community to the best of your ability and with the highest level of integrity, kindness, and professionalism,” Harshberger said.
“We must be mindful that every day brings new challenges that will test our abilities and commitment, but our collective resolve, compassion and professionalism will persevere, with the understanding and acknowledgement that we must always be working to be better than we were the day before — the safety and wellbeing of our community require it,” Harshberger added. “I know that graduating from the Washtenaw Police Academy is proof that all of you are prepared for this challenge. You are better today than you were yesterday and certainly much better prepared than the day you began the academy.”
The graduating class started its training on May 31 and over 18 weeks completed more than 820 hours of classroom and hands-on training, earning 19 credits from WCC in the process.
Class president Alexandra Czarniecki, who would later earn the MCOLES Outstanding Recruit Award, said in her address that she and her classmates "have been through and supported each other through so many different events and obstacles" over those 18 weeks.
"Despite all the hardships, we grew as a family. We have been told by instructors and shown through dashcam footage countless times the potential risks of this job. And yet, we all chose to be here and accept the challenges ahead," Czarniecki said. "In the coming years, we will all face many trials and tribulations. During these, I ask you to remember you are never alone. You have so many brothers and sisters, many of whom are sitting beside you today, who are in this fight with you and are willing to pick you up if you fall. Always remember to call for backup. I know each and every one of you will make a gret difference in our communities."
MEET THE GRADUATES
Thirty-four members of the WCC Police Academy Class of 2022 are in-service graduates, meaning they had secured employment and were sent through the police academy by their department. They include:
- James Bailey (Lenawee County Sheriff’s Office)
- Gabriel Bechtol (Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office)
- Anthony Borello (Ann Arbor Police Department)
- Cyn-Tonio Bright-Mitchell (Albion Department of Public Safety)
- Chad Buike (East Lansing Police Department)
- Elana Burkett (Albion Department of Public Safety)
- Loren Cazan (Beverly Hills Department of Public Safety)
- DJ Christie (Pittsfield Township Police Department)
- Shannon Coleman (Albion Department of Public Safety)
- Jacob Cuso (Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office)
- Alexandra Czarniecki (Monroe County Sheriff’s Office)
- Aero Gibbons (Hillsdale Police Department)
- Jared Grembowski (Wayne Police Department)
- Kyle Hannah (Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office)
- Joel Hill (Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office)
- Vincent John (Howell Police Department)
- Brittney Jones (Lenawee County Sheriff’s Office)
- Adam Kowalczyk (Milford Police Department)
- Jacob Laboe (Monroe County Sheriff’s Office)
- Megan Laib (Pittsfield Township Police Department)
- Dylan Laitis (Lincoln Park Police Department)
- Jennifer Miller (Pittsfield Township Police Department)
- Raul Pacheco Garcia (Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office)
- Nicholas Parraghi (Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office)
- Joshua Perez (Lenawee County Sheriff’s Office)
- Marion Petty (Lenawee County Sheriff’s Office)
- Morgan Ramos (Monroe County Sheriff’s Office)
- Cody Ross (Lenawee County Sheriff’s Office)
- Cameron Schmidt (Ann Arbor Police Department)
- Nicholas Thibodeau Lincoln Park Police Department)
- Justin Tomshany (Milan Police Department)
- Ryan Tursich (Blackman Township Department of Public Safety)
- Brennen Wright (Lenawee County Sheriff’s Office)
- Travis Ziesmer (Lincoln Park Police Department)
Of the seven graduates who entered the academy as a pre-service recruit, meaning they started without already being hired by an agency, two of them finalized employment during training. They include:
- Christopher Schwandt (Roseville Police Department)
- Patrick Sroufe (Royal Oak Police Department)
Pre-service graduates who are finalizing their employment or planning military service include:
- Sabrina Dungan
- Skylar Gonzales-Tripp
- Devin Lynch
- Austin Ragsdale
- Kenneth Williams
Police Academy instructors bestowed the following awards upon graduates:
- MCOLES Outstanding Recruit Award: Alexandra Czarniecki
- High Academic Achievement: Cameron Schmidt
- Subject Control Excellence Award: Joel Hill
- Emergency Vehicle Operations Excellence Award: Gabriel Bechtol
- Emergency Vehicle Operations Instructor Award: Morgan Ramos
- Firearms Excellence Award: Gabriel Bechtol
- Firearms Instructor Award: Alexandra Czarniecki
- Physical Fitness Excellence Award: Jennifer Miller
- Physical Fitness Improvement Award: Patrick Sroufe
- ‘Train Like Troy’ Award: Anthony Borello, Alexandra Czarniecki, Sabrina Dungan, Brittney Jones, Patrick Sroufe
Graduate Megan Laib received the honor of being selected by her class to read the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics.
Police Academy graduates bestowed the following awards upon instructors:
- Favorite Instructor Award: Mike Church
- Most Dedicated Instructor Award: James Meldrum
- Most Influential Instructor Award: John Nelson
Members of the Class of 2022 also awarded a “Class MVP” trophy to Patrick Downey, Manager of Events & Conference Services at WCC, who is heavily involved in the day-to-day planning of the training schedule.