The 32 graduates of Class 159 survived a grueling six months in the Golden West College Police Academy, preparing for their role serving the public after graduation.
They fought, wrote, bled, experienced pepper spray and tasers, learned, laughed, and did countless pushups. Together, they formed a bond that will last a lifetime.
Now the real work begins as they transition to their jobs as officers in police agencies across Orange County and beyond.
“Together we accomplished what seemed like the unthinkable,” Class 159 President Britnie Priest told the crowd. “We pushed through pain, sweat, and sleepless nights. Together we withstood a journey most people couldn’t have, and together we achieved our dream. Today we stand tall, proud, and courageous as we take our oath into the most noble profession there is.”
“In a society where the ties between police and citizens are shaky, be the catalyst for change that starts with you and your community,” Priest said.
The class selected a compass as its symbol, and for its motto the phrase “Never lose sight.”
“Never, ever, ever forget when you have your badge pinned on, that that is the greatest symbol of keeping your compass in the most singular direction you’ve ever seen ever in your life,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer, who gave the keynote address.
Spitzer, a former reserve police officer, shared his experience on the job and warned the recruits to continue to nurture their relationships with friends and family in the face of increasing job stresses.
He cautioned the graduates to make the right choice and always follow the law, to not cross the line in the quest to obtain a conviction or solve a crime.
“It’s a tremendous amount of pressure,” Spitzer said. “But you also are taking an oath to follow the Constitution of the State of California and the Constitution of the United States of America, and if you cross that line then you as police officers are willing to engage in anarchy.
“You are absolutely bestowed and betrusted with the most powerful position in the world.”
The 32 recruits took to the stage individually to meet a commanding officer from their department and have their badges pinned onto their uniforms by loved ones. The audience also was treated to a video of the recruits filmed during the academy, and was able to watch them in various training scenarios as they worked their way toward graduation.
It was a special day for the La Habra Police Department, which celebrated the graduation of four recruits – its biggest class. Abigail Fox, Karen Krouse, Cassandra Robles, and Christopher Serna started their field training the following Monday.
“All four of them did really well and we are really excited for all of them,” La Habra Chief Jerry Price said. “We think they are going to be a good fit.”
The graduation also marks the largest number of female recruits to join the La Habra Police Department.
“It’s just refreshing to see this many female officers joining our ranks,” La Habra Capt. Dean Capelletti said. “It’s a proud moment for them but it’s also a proud moment for us.”
Three recruits are joining the Orange Police Department: Jacob Casalou, Nykolo Gonzalez, and Daniel James.
“I’m sure it’s been a long 24 weeks for them,” Orange Police Capt. Dave Nichols said. “It’s a time of celebration… certainly it’s an accomplishment for all of them.”
The recruits agreed.
“It’s a huge weight off my shoulders getting through the academy,” said graduate Bradley Odell, who is joining the Westminster Police Department. “It felt like it was never going to end.”
“I’m just looking forward to learning how everything translates in the real world, actually being able to apply all the stuff we learned the last six months,” Odell said. “I’m super excited.”
Casalou said he is glad the academy is over and is excited for what the future holds.
“It’s been a long journey and a lot of hard work, so I’m pretty happy that it’s all over with now, to be honest,” Casalou said. “I’m looking forward to starting out with Orange PD and I can’t wait to see where the career blossoms from there.”
Class 159 gifted the academy with two pull-up stations; building numbers that represent the class’s “black Monday,” class number, and the date of their graduation; and street signs for Academy Way in Scenario Village displaying the class motto, “Never lose sight.”
The recruits read together the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics, administered by Cypress Police Department Sgt. Scott Ausmus at the close of the ceremony, to rousing applause.
“Never lose sight of the reason why you are here today,” Priest told her class. “My fellow graduates, be relentless, be passionate, be aware, and be kind.”
The awards were presented by Orange Police Sgt. David Natividad.
The academic achievement award went to graduate Jean Carlo Morales (California Department of Insurance). Gonzalez of the Orange Police Department earned the Outstanding Firearm Skills Award; he had 199.53 points of a possible 200.
The Lifetime Fitness award was given to Serna (La Habra Police Department), who received 199.7 points, giving him a 99.8 percent. Fox (La Habra Police Department) received the Outstanding Written Exam Scores Award with 191 points of a total 200 points possible. The graduates wrote more than 150 memorandums and crime reports during their time in the academy.
Graduate George LeTourneau (Costa Mesa Police Department) received the Scenario Award for earning 100 percent – all 210 possible points during scenario testing.
The award for the most overall points went to Morales, who earned 1588.36 points (94.26 percent) overall.
The Director’s Award, also known as the Character Award, was given to Kimberly Aggabao of the Signal Hill Police Department for living the Six Pillars of Character that are of the utmost importance for police recruits. She was nominated by her class.
Director Ron Lowenberg of the Regional Criminal Justice Training Center presented the award, and shared some phrases that appeared in the nominations for Aggabao.
“A show of respect for everyone, always fair, has a caring heart, has a real passion for the motto of To Protect and Serve, displayed extraordinary character,” Lowenberg read.