When students from McDowell Technical Community College’s Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) Program gathered last weekend for graduation exercises, they were met with unexpected praise and admiration from North Carolina Lt. Governor Mark Robinson, keynote speaker for the event. Robinson referred to the group of 13 graduates as heroes in the making.
He compared them to the brave men and women who rushed into the Twin Towers on 9/11—men and women who ran into danger in the service of others while most folks were running away from the danger. Robinson minced no words in his praise of their choice to pursue careers as law enforcement officers. He said that men and women entering law enforcement, firefighting, emergency medical service and similar occupations are committing themselves and their families to years of sacrifice for their willingness to help their fellow man. Ultimately, some of them pay the ultimate price, being killed in the line of duty.
“We are very appreciative to the Lt. Governor for being so supportive of the college and our Basic Law Enforcement graduates,” said Dr. Brian S. Merritt, MTCC President.
Thirteen students participated in Saturday’s commencement exercises after completing 36 blocks of targeted instruction in everything from Constitutional Law and Arrest, Search and Seizure to Motor Vehicle Laws and Use of Firearms in Law Enforcement—and passing state exams in these subjects.
Law Enforcement Training is a tough program in and of itself, made tougher with grueling physical training required to pass tests of physical strength and endurance, including the well-known “POPAT,” which includes components for “Chase and Apprehension” and “Rescue.” In MTCC’s program, students also experience being tased and pepper sprayed to better understand that these are not tools to be used indiscriminately as they move into their careers.
Robinson told the group that they would miss family dinners, holiday celebrations, Little League ball games and many other family events during the lifetime of their law enforcement careers. In exchange, he said, some would attack and deride them for their service. Meanwhile, he said, the less-vocal majority would have their backs, and he would be standing with them, supporting them for protecting, serving and rescuing those in harm’s way.
Alan Moore, Director of Basic Law Enforcement Training, presented diplomas to the graduates after Merritt presented the graduates for completion.
In addition, four sets of awards were presented to students and one to instructors, with a recipient in each category from both the day and night BLET classes. For the student awards, recipients were chosen based on their average scores in each of the award categories. In the day section, Noah Pauley received the Firearms Honors Award; Cullen Torbett received the Driver’s Honors Award; Conner Daniels received the Physical Fitness Honors Award; and Sam Ledford received the Academic Honors Award. In the night section, Chris Dvorak received the Firearms Honors Award; Alex Cruz received the Driver’s Honors Award; Juan Campos received the Physical Fitness Honors Award; and Chris Dvorak received the Academic Honors Award.
For the instructor awards, students in the BLET program vote on the instructors in the day and evening section whom they believe have had the most impact on them during the course of the semester-long day program or 9-month night program. This year, Jamie Harklerode received the Instructor Honors Award for the day section and Kevin Fineberg received the award for the night section.
“We join the Lt. Governor in honoring the 2021 graduates of the MTCC Law Enforcement Academy for their commitment to a noble calling and for the sacrifices they will be called on to make during their career,” said Merritt. “We know that we have the best law enforcement academy in the state and that our instructors have prepared them well for the challenges they will face as they put on their badges and begin their service. Congratulations to the students who excelled in our awards categories and to our excellent instructors who have inspired our students to personal success.”