GVL / Eric Coulter
Police Academy Recruit Nick Soley searches a volunteer during a training session.

Eric Coulter

GVL / Eric Coulter Police Academy Recruit Nick Soley searches a volunteer during a training session.

Ellie Phillips

Integrity, loyalty, decisiveness, dependability, endurance, courage; these are the core values of the 38th recruit class at Grand Valley State University’s Police Academy. Values they will need, considering their summer consists of a 638 hours of intense training over a 16-week period – 44 hours more than required by the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards.

The 38th recruit class is made up of two platoons, each with 15 recruits, and is taught by 58 staff members, 90 percent of whom are active or former law enforcement officers.

“You’re in a different world,” said Zach Smigiel, police academy recruit commander, who came to GVSU’s academy because it was close, had a good reputation and a broad range of instructors.

Entry requirements for recruits are tough; they must pass a credit check, background check, meet the MCOLES physical fitness entrance standards, and face an intensive interview process, among other challenges.

Nonetheless, director of GVSU’s Police Academy, Julie Yunker, said she has high expectations for this year’s class of recruits – and she should, since her academy boasts a 94 percent completion rate and a 94 percent licensing exam pass rate on the first try. 60 percent of graduates are employed in law enforcement within one year of completing the program.

Smigiel said he has not been disappointed in his experience, and feels he is being well trained for a “career that (he) can be proud of.”

The academy covers 111 topic areas including legality tests, health and wellness tests, and driving tests, as well as physical fitness training and scenarios in which they must practice and demonstrate the behaviors and protocols they have learned.

“(GVSU has a) hands-on, practical training academy that is going to impact how (GVSU students) as citizens will be treated,” Yunker said. Part of this hands-on experience is scenario training. Many academy alumni volunteer their help as both safety officers and role players – like alumnus Gary Worden, who said he still learns useful things from the scenarios he participates in, despite graduating last year.

Though law enforcement can be a dangerous and demanding job, recruits, alumni, and instructors all feel risk is worth the reward.

“It’s a form of service,” said Scott Shaw, a recruit who also teaches as a professor at Grace Bible College.

The opportunity to make a difference is a powerful motivator for many of them, including Chris Herzog, an alumni role-player.

“I feel good when I can actually help someone,” he said.

Yunker encouraged anyone interested in joining the GVSU Police Academy to visit their website, before setting up a personal visit to learn more about the program and see it in action first-hand.

For more information, visit www.gvsu.edu/cj/policeacademy/.

[email protected]