Eight shining Columbia Police badges were pinned this morning over the hearts of Law Enforcement Training Institute graduates. It was the largest class of recruits for the department in several years.
“Each of them are focused and committed to serving this community,” says Sgt. Richard Horrell, supervisor of the Training and Recruitment Unit.
One-by-one smiles swept across their faces as their names were called: Albert Howard, Regenia Minks, Jordan Payne, Corinne Raney, Ryan Tarrants, Jacob Waldrup, Brittany Williams, and Matthew Wright. For the last 17 weeks they have studied side-by-side learning Missouri laws, qualifying on firearms, understanding defensive tactics, and even watching one another get pepper sprayed. However, for some of them this time was merely a speck in their journey to service as part of the blue line family.
“Since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to be a police officer,” says Officer Jordan Payne. “My grandfather was a judge and took me to a ‘take your child to work day.’ It was then I realized I wanted to serve.”
Over the last few years, law enforcement agencies across the nation have struggled with low numbers of applicants. Some, like Payne, speculate the perception of police officers has changed, causing less people to be interested in working in the field. He says combating that stigma is a mission for him as he embarks on this new career.
“I want to make a difference,” says Payne. “There’s a perception of police officers and I want to help change what people think [of us], specifically in the black community.” Payne and Officer Howard bring the department to eight African American officers on staff.
A day at an air show lined the stars for Officer Brittany Williams’ path to being a police officer. After two years of being in and out of the hiring process, she says this day has been a long time coming.
“I went to an air show when I was younger, and I remember seeing one female pilot out of all the pilots,” says Officer Williams.
She said that was when she decided to join the Air Force. “I wanted to do something not a lot of women do.”
Williams spent her first year in active duty. During that time she worked military police and says she “fell in love” with law enforcement. The last three years, Williams has served as a Reserve for the Air Force. While stationed at the Whiteman Air Force Base, Williams reached out to the department after feeling drawn to Columbia.
“Everyone in the department was extremely professional,” says Williams.
During the hiring process, Williams had to withdraw for personal reasons. A woman of perseverance, she reached out to Sgt. Horrell and applied again a short time later. While in the process the second time, Williams was deployed to Kuwait.
“Sgt. Horrell was willing to work with me on the hiring process even when I got deployed,” says Williams. “That really meant a lot to me.” She says it was that correspondence that sealed the deal that Columbia Police Department was where she was meant to be.
“[Recruiting] is about open communication and working alongside applicants throughout the process,” says Horrell. “These recruits have made it easy because each of them is very committed to accomplishing their goals.”
Several of the recruits were honored at the graduation ceremony for outstanding achievement in areas, to include:
- Officer Jordan Payne: Perfect Attendance
- Officer Jacob Waldrup: Perfect Attendance
- Officer Corinne Raney: 2nd Overall in Defensive Tactics, 3rd Overall in Academic Achievement
- Officer Ryan Tarrants: 2nd Overall in Academic Achievement
- Officer Brittany Williams: 2nd Overall in Firearm Qualifications
- Officer Matthew Wright: 1st Overall in Firearm Qualifications
Now, these men and women will begin the second phase of their law enforcement careers, in which the department is confident they will be just as successful in. Joining them will be an academy colleague that was hired by the department after graduation today, Officer Patrick Spellman, as well as three other officers that were hired with Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) certifications already – for a total of 12 new Columbia Police officers.
Starting Monday, the officers will begin three weeks of orientation, followed by four and a half months with a Police Training Officer working in the field.
“I’d tell anyone considering a career in law enforcement to go for it!” says Payne. “It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.”
The department is still seeking applicants at this time. For more information on how to join the team, or call (573) 874-6309.