Police academy: Ringing the graduation bell

On June 2, Federal Way police officer Carl VanDyke stepped onto the blue carpet and gently rang a small gold bell, symbolizing his completion of the Basic Law Enforcement Academy training.

"It's a pretty big day, pretty significant day," VanDyke said. "It feels really good to finally be over with. I'm really proud to finally accomplish what I set out to do."

VanDyke and his 24 peers in class number 642 celebrated their induction as police officers and deputies during the ringing of the bell and graduation ceremonies. Their trainers passed on pearls of wisdom and congratulated the men and women on their accomplishments. The academy is a 19-week course that all new police must undergo before receiving their badges and officially being hired on to a force.

"You are no longer recruits," Basic Law Enforcement Academy (BLEA) instructor Monica Matthews told the class. "You have earned the right to your title as deputies and officers."

Early mornings, late nights, studying, training and commuting are all part of the nearly five-month course. While at the academy, VanDyke learned the basics of police work. Handcuffing, responding to calls, processing crime scenes, using force, operating firearms, performing sobriety tests, driving and learning the state's laws as they apply to police, suspects and victims were just some items he practiced before earning his badge.

"The (BLEA) instructors are always going to throw things at you," VanDyke said. "They are going to challenge you, make you think, make you work."

Graduation brought feelings of happiness and anxiety for VanDyke. Completing the academy is a relief, he said. Getting the opportunity to practice what he has learned is much anticipated. But not knowing how well he will perform on the job is a bit intimidating, he said.

The new officer is eager to begin a week's worth of training with the Federal Way police before he begins a three-month field training officer program. At the completion of that program, he will be ready to perform as a police officer on his own.

"I'm very confident I have all the skills it takes to be successful in law enforcement," VanDyke said.

Matthews reminded the graduation ceremony crowd that the recruits — along with their families — have worked hard and made sacrifices to pass the academy. They have been challenged and will be challenged many more times as officers and deputies, she said.

"Don't forget the learning never stops," Basic Law Enforcement Academy Assistant Cmdr. Sgt. Rich Phillips told the recruits.

Check it out

VanDyke is now a Federal Way officer. Keep reading the series to learn more about his training, challenges and progress in the police department as he completes the field training officer program.

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