ORLANDO – It’s an honor to see your child graduate, but an even greater honor for a police officer to pin a badge on his child at police academy graduation.
On Feb. 20, Richard Beary, the police chief at the University of Central Florida, served as the keynote speaker for the Law Enforcement Academy graduation at Valencia College’s Criminal Justice Institute. In addition to speaking, Chief Beary pinned a badge on his son Gregory at graduation.
Gregory Beary was among the 28 recruits graduating at the event, which was held at Valencia’s Performing Arts Center on the East Campus. In addition to Beary, who will be working for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, another graduating recruit, Ricky Fink, was a second generation law-enforcement officer and had his Orlando Police Department badge pinned on him by a family member.
Chief Beary, who is currently serving as vice president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, offered the graduates some advice. “You will need a lot of friends: both civilian and cop friends,” he said. “Your civilian friends will never ever see you cry, but your cop friends will cry along with you.” Police officers and their families, he said, are the few who will understand the sacrifices that officers make, including missed holidays, birthday parties and graduations.
Beary also reminded the graduates that they have the power to take away someone’s freedom — and they should use that power judiciously. “Honor the badge you wear, honor the community you serve and be humble with the authority entrusted to you by the citizens of the United States of America,” he said.
The top academic award was given to recruit Zachery Haden, who earned a 95.5 percent on his coursework. The top gun award went to Forrest Best, while the top athlete award was given to Matthew Baxter. The most improved athlete award went to Corey Weitz. Recruit and class president Thomas Ashlock won the Dr. Stanley H. Stone Award of Excellence.
About 135 law-enforcement recruits graduate from Valencia’s Criminal Justice Institute each year. CJI is recognized throughout the state for its high licensure rate and high placement rates. The most recent five-year review of the program found that 99 percent of law-enforcement graduates passed the state licensure exam, while 90 percent of corrections graduates passed the state exam. In addition, 94 percent of the law-enforcement graduates found employment, while 92 percent of the corrections graduates found jobs.
State data shows that CJI’s law-enforcement graduates earn an average yearly wage of $45,520, while graduates from the correctional officer program earn an average of $41,896 a year.
The institute is certified by the Florida Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission to teach law enforcement, correctional and correctional probation officers in Florida. With primary responsibility for the criminal justice agencies in Orange County, CJI is a regional training center that serves over 45 organizations; including state law enforcement agencies, Department of Corrections, Department of Juvenile Justice, numerous county, municipal, regional and international agencies.