Law enforcement welcomes 21 new recruits

By Jaimee Lynn Fletcher

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.

The graduating class from Golden West College Criminal Justice Training Center, Class 150, stand at the conclusion of a ceremony at Orange Coast College. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The graduating class from Golden West College Criminal Justice Training Center, Class 150, stand at the conclusion of a ceremony at Orange Coast College.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

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.

The Cypress PD Honor Guard presents the colors on stage at the start of the Golden West College Criminal Justice Training Center’s Basic Police Academy Class 150 graduation ceremony. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The Cypress PD Honor Guard presents the colors on stage at the start of the Golden West College Criminal Justice Training Center’s Basic Police Academy Class 150 graduation ceremony.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

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.

Cypress PD’s Melissa Grove receives her badge from Cypress Police Chief Rod Cox during the Golden West College Basic Police Academy, Class 150, graduation ceremony. Grove was later honored with the Director’s Award. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Cypress PD’s Melissa Grove receives her badge from Cypress Police Chief Rod Cox during the Golden West College Basic Police Academy, Class 150, graduation ceremony. Grove was later honored with the Director’s Award.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“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.”

The Cypress PD Honor Guard presents the colors at the start of the Golden West College Criminal Justice Training Center’s Basic Police Academy Class 150 graduation ceremony. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The Cypress PD Honor Guard presents the colors at the start of the Golden West College Criminal Justice Training Center’s Basic Police Academy Class 150 graduation ceremony.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

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.

Cypress PD’s Christopher Bushman smiles as he gets his badge pinned to him by his family during the Golden West College Basic Police Academy, Class 150, graduation ceremony. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Cypress PD’s Christopher Bushman smiles as he gets his badge pinned to him by his family during the Golden West College Basic Police Academy, Class 150, graduation ceremony.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

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.

Cypress Police Chief Rod Cox stands with Cypress PD’s Melissa Grove as she receives the Director’s Award from the Golden West College Criminal Justice Training Center during a graduation ceremony at Orange Coast College. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Cypress Police Chief Rod Cox stands with Cypress PD’s Melissa Grove as she receives the Director’s Award from the Golden West College Criminal Justice Training Center during a graduation ceremony at Orange Coast College.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

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.

Cypress PD’s Kevin Lindsey receives his badge from Cypress Police Chief Rod Cox during the Golden West College Basic Police Academy, Class 150, graduation ceremony. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Cypress PD’s Kevin Lindsey receives his badge from Cypress Police Chief Rod Cox during the Golden West College Basic Police Academy, Class 150, graduation ceremony.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Claire Tran, 24, has a bachelor’s degree in economics from San Diego State University.

She wants to one day serve as a detective.

Cypress PD’s Melissa Grove gets her badge pinned to her by her family during the Golden West College Basic Police Academy, Class 150, graduation ceremony. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Cypress PD’s Melissa Grove gets her badge pinned to her by her family during the Golden West College Basic Police Academy, Class 150, graduation ceremony.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

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.

Westminster PD’s Alejandro Lopez receives his badge from Westminster Deputy Chief Dan Schoonmaker during the Golden West College Basic Police Academy, Class 150, graduation ceremony. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Westminster PD’s Alejandro Lopez receives his badge from Westminster Deputy Chief Dan Schoonmaker during the Golden West College Basic Police Academy, Class 150, graduation ceremony.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

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.

Family members and friends of Golden West College Criminal Justice Training Center graduates fill the Robert B. Moore Theater at Orange Coast College. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Family members and friends of Golden West College Criminal Justice Training Center graduates fill the Robert B. Moore Theater at Orange Coast College.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

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.

Cypress PD’s Melissa Grove smiles as she gets her badge pinned to her by her family during the Golden West College Basic Police Academy, Class 150, graduation ceremony. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Cypress PD’s Melissa Grove smiles as she gets her badge pinned to her by her family during the Golden West College Basic Police Academy, Class 150, graduation ceremony.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Cypress PD’s Melissa Grove, right, with her classmates during the Golden West College Criminal Justice Training Center’s Basic Police Academy, Class 150, graduation ceremony. Grove would later receive the Director’s Award. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Cypress PD’s Melissa Grove, right, with her classmates during the Golden West College Criminal Justice Training Center’s Basic Police Academy, Class 150, graduation ceremony. Grove would later receive the Director’s Award.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Cypress PD’s Claire Tran gets a congratulatory hand shake from Cypress Police Chief Rod Cox before receiving her badge during the Golden West College Basic Police Academy, Class 150, graduation ceremony. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Cypress PD’s Claire Tran gets a congratulatory hand shake from Cypress Police Chief Rod Cox before receiving her badge during the Golden West College Basic Police Academy, Class 150, graduation ceremony.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Claire Tran, left, Melissa Grove, Christopher Bushman and Kevin Lindsey are sworn in by Cypress Police Chief Rod Cox during a small ceremony following the Golden West College Police Academy Class 150 graduation ceremony at Orange Coast College. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Claire Tran, left, Melissa Grove, Christopher Bushman and Kevin Lindsey are sworn in by Cypress Police Chief Rod Cox during a small ceremony following the Golden West College Police Academy Class 150 graduation ceremony at Orange Coast College.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Claire Tran, Melissa Grove, Christopher Bushman and Kevin Lindsey with with Cypress Councilwoman Stacy Berry, left, Mayor Rob Johnson and councilman Paulo Morales, right, after they were sworn in by Cypress Police Chief Rod Cox during a small ceremony following the Golden West College Police Academy Class 150 graduation ceremony at Orange Coast College. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Claire Tran, Melissa Grove, Christopher Bushman and Kevin Lindsey with with Cypress Councilwoman Stacy Berry, left, Mayor Rob Johnson and councilman Paulo Morales, right, after they were sworn in by Cypress Police Chief Rod Cox during a small ceremony following the Golden West College Police Academy Class 150 graduation ceremony at Orange Coast College.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Vice President Class 150 Melissa Grove salutes during the playing of the National Anthem at the Golden West College Basic Police Academy, Class 150, graduation ceremony. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Vice President Class 150 Melissa Grove salutes during the playing of the National Anthem at the Golden West College Basic Police Academy, Class 150, graduation ceremony.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Cypress Councilwoman Stacy Berry, left, and Cypress Mayor Rob Johnson applause the new Cypress PD recruits after being sworn in. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Cypress Councilwoman Stacy Berry, left, and Cypress Mayor Rob Johnson applause the new Cypress PD recruits after being sworn in.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC