The 23 graduates from Class 86 of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Basic Correctional Training Academy logged 374 hours over eight weeks, immersing themselves in a demanding, and sometimes excruciating, regime that pushed recruits to the limit — both physically and mentally.
In order to graduate, every academy recruit was required to score at least 80 percent in all practical, physical and written tests.
With family members and RCSD officials looking on, each member of Class 86 was celebrated for their accomplishments during a graduation ceremony Oct. 10 at the Grove Community Church in Riverside.
“You are here today because you stayed that course and completed your goals,” said RCSD Correctional Sgt. and academy coordinator Chuck Lemons. “You are part of a team, better yet a family, which represents more than you as individuals. What you do from here sets the tone for your future as members in society and leaders in our community.”
Three of the graduates will go to work for the Pomona Police Department.
The rest will begin their law enforcement careers supervising inmates in one of the largest jail operations in the nation.
“We have established a new foundation of discipline, integrity, loyalty, professionalism and leadership,” said graduate Cecil Garcia, president of Class 86. “No matter what we may go through in our careers, we now have 23 brothers and sisters to turn to for support and guidance.”
Garcia was among several graduates who were given awards for excelling in specific areas of training.
The 25-year-old former ice hockey player received an award for being No. 1 in physical fitness and was named the most inspirational recruit in Class 86.
RCSD recruit Adam Drexler earned top academic and top report writing honors.
Recruit Erika Rogero earned the James B. Evans Award for academics, and Vin Vuong was named top overall recruit.
“On day one, we were just 34 individuals with our heads missing wondering where to line up and how to get in formation,” Garcia said. “Now we come to you as a family of 23 brothers and sisters.”
Delivering the keynote address was RCSD Chief Deputy Don Sharp, who not only served as an inspiration to the class, but was inspired himself by the grit displayed by Class 86, whose class motto was “Together as one, defeated by none.”
A 30-year member of law enforcement, Sharp acknowledged being a bit out of shape. He decided to get back in shape by performing physical exercise alongside the recruits who were decades younger. That included challenging the academy class to race 1,330 feet up Mt. Rubidoux.
Sharp stressed the importance of faith, family, friends, and fitness as being an integral part of a successful career in law enforcement.
The chief deputy also praised Class 86 for exhibiting teamwork.
“The way you worked together and helped each other achieve your goal is something you should never forget and be proud of, he said. “Your desire to succeed was inspirational.”
Sharp also urged the graduates to behave with dignity and to show respect, even toward the inmates they will be supervising.
“That can be difficult at times knowing the offenses they have committed against others, but we are professionals,” Sharp said. “Disrespecting people does not mean compliance. It only diminishes your authority.
“Remember, service above self applies to all citizens — even those we supervise in our jails. You are all ethical men and women with great integrity. Please don’t let me every hear that it changed.”
The graduates of Class 86 are Cecil Garcia, Erika Rogero, Adam Drexler, Vin Vuong, Donovan Alamo, Yazmin Aviles, Andrew Bengston, Bailey Bowers, Robert Caputo, Zackary Carter, Rafael Fitch, Jordan Grossa, Jose Jara, Michael Kuzara, Nathan Lay, Marshall Levine, Christian Miller, Jorge Oceguera, Mason Parks, Cristian Perez, Luis Valdez, Samantha Valle, and Crystal Wendland.