Before their first day on patrol, their first case or their first arrest, 21 of California’s newest law enforcement officers made a fervent commitment to their communities: service before self.
This mantra carried Class 150 through a grueling 24 weeks at the Golden West College Criminal Justice Training Center, and it will be the motto that serves as the foundation throughout their careers.
The recruits were welcomed into law enforcement with a badge pinning ceremony on Friday, Sept. 18 at Orange Coast College in front of their families, friends and colleagues.
Academy class president Jeff Gance, who will work for the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, said the recruits started as individuals, but learned they had to work as a team to make it through the demanding training.
“I overheard someone say, ‘It will be the worst time of your life and the best time of your life. It’s something you’ll miss, but never want to do again,” Gance said of the academy. “We leave here as well-trained recruits, ready to serve our communities.”
Not everyone who wants to wear a badge can make it through the intense physical and academic tests the academy demands.
This class started with 32 people, but only 21 stood on the stage on graduation day.
Recruits put in about 1,100 hours of training, completed 100 tests and committed to 16 hours of ride-alongs.
The academy uses character-based training to prepare recruits by reinforcing attributes training officers said are a necessary part of being in law enforcement.
Respect, responsibility, trustworthiness and caring are among the character pillars instilled in those who go through the program.
Cypress Police Chief Rod Cox, the keynote speaker at the graduation, encouraged the recruits to always maintain a positive attitude, strive for balance in all aspects of their lives and hold the job they are called to do in the highest regard.
“The departments you work for, and the communities you serve, will expect and demand the very best of you, during every single human encounter, regardless of the difficulty,” Cox told the recruits. “The symbol of this authority, your badge, represents tremendous responsibility and power that must be exercised with great care.”
Immediately following the ceremony, Cypress’ four recruits were sworn in by Cox — Christopher Bushman, Melissa Grove, Kevin Lindsey and Claire Tran.
“We had a lot of support from the community, family and friends,” Lindsey said of making it through the academy. “It took a lot of people to get us here. We appreciate what we do and it’s nice to give back to the community.”
Mayor Rob Johnson, who was among several dignitaries in attendance from the City of Cypress, said, “We are proud of their accomplishments and look forward to them hitting the streets and serving our community.”
Here is a look at the graduates:
CYPRESS POLICE DEPARTMENT
Christopher Bushman, 25, has a bachelor’s degree in history from Texas Christian University.
His goal is to one day become a K-9 handler and a SWAT operator.
Melissa Grove, 31, has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Cal State Fullerton.
Her future goal is to lead the Cypress Police Department as Police Chief.
Grove received the Director’s Award, which is considered the most prestigious honor awarded to recruits.
The recipient is nominated by fellow recruits and voted on by instructors. It goes to the recruit that best exemplifies the six pillars of character.
Kevin Lindsey, 26, has a bachelor’s degree in social ecology from UC Irvine.
His goal is to one day be a K-9 handler and field supervisor.
Claire Tran, 24, has a bachelor’s degree in economics from San Diego State University.
She wants to one day serve as a detective.
WESTMINSTER POLICE DEPARTMENT
Alejandro “Alex” Lopez, 25, has a bachelor’s degree from Sacramento State and hopes to one day be a narcotics officers and a SWAT operator.
LAGUNA BEACH POLICE DEPARTMENT
Charles Carter, 31, has a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts and hopes to one day be a narcotics investigator.
He received the Lifetime Fitness Award at graduation.
ORANGE POLICE DEPARTMENT
Manuel Landeros II, 21, has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Cal State Los Angeles. He said his goal is to become a gang investigator and field supervisor.
ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE CONTROL
Jeff Gance has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Cal State Long Beach.
He hopes to obtain his law degree while serving with ABC.
Gance was academy class president and recipient of the following awards: Academic Achievement, Report Writing and Arrest and Control.
He was also named the honor recruit for obtaining the highest overall score in the academy.
Daniel Plotnik, 31, has a bachelor’s degree from Cal State Long Beach.
He hopes to serve as a narcotics investigator and one day come back to the academy as a recruit training officer.
Plotnik was recognized with awards for scoring the highest points in Firearms and Field Problems.
CA DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES
Jon Brooks has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and corrections management from Union University.
He hopes to one day work for the California Department of Corrections.
Brooks was honored for earning the highest marks in Field Problems, an award he shared with Plotnik.
Joshua Okumura, 36, has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Cal State Northridge. His goal is to one day become a deputy chief.
CAL STATE UNIVERSITY LONG BEACH
Michelle Serrato has an associate’s degree in administrative justice. She is a former Explorer and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Cadet.
Serrato hopes to one day return to the academy as a recruit training officer.
GOLDEN WEST COLLEGE
Brandon Blair, 37, formerly served as a security guard for the Long Beach School District.
He hopes to one day be a K-9 handler and serve as a narcotics detective.
Mark Chafe, 29, has a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from Humboldt State University.
His law enforcement career goal is to become a motor officer.
Reiley Godfrey hopes to one day become a juvenile detective.
Saul Hernandez III, 25, was previously a trade carpenter.
He hopes to one day serve as an agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives.
Carlos Padilla left his career as a real estate agent to pursue law enforcement.
He hopes to one day be a gang investigator.
Andrew Parker, 28, served as an EMT for four years before enrolling in the academy.
Parker hopes to one day become a gang investigator.
Albert Ramos, 26, has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of La Verne.
He hopes to one day become an accident investigator and his ultimate goal is to be elected to District Attorney.
Jeff Witthuhn is a veteran of the United States Army.
He hopes to one day serve as a SWAT operator and a field training officer.
Kevyn Yamada, 26, has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Cal State Long Beach and would one day like to serve as a vice detective.