EAU CLAIRE – The recruits in the Chippewa Valley Technical College Law Enforcement Academy that ran over 20 weeks through the summer and fall became an especially close-knit group. On Tuesday, Dec. 15, thirteen students graduated, qualifying them to serve as law enforcement officers in Wisconsin.
After graduating Justin Lamm, 27, reflected on the first spark that led him toward a career in law enforcement and public service. He was five years old at the time.
“In 1998, we had a house fire caused by a drier,” said the 2012 Boyceville High School graduate. “One of the first people who responded was with the Menomonie Police Department. I was unconscious on the ground. He wrapped me in a blanket and made sure I was breathing until paramedics got there.”
Being a law enforcement officer in Wisconsin takes a great deal of training. A minimum of 60 college credits are required to enroll in the Academy. Many go through CVTC’s two-year Criminal Justice-Law Enforcement program, or through a university or other technical college.
Academy Director Eric Anderson said the 720-hour academy instructs the recruits in six areas: policing in America, tactical skills, patrol procedures, legal context, relational skills and investigations.
The graduation celebration was held virtually. The graduates were present, as they had just finished their final examinations, but were masked and socially distanced while family and friends watched the event online. They were even able to unmute their computer microphones to cheer when their graduate received their certification to become a law enforcement officer.
Among the graduates was Abigail Wood of Eau Claire, who was recently hired by the Menomonie Police Department.
“I’m really appreciative for the opportunity to work for the Menomonie Police Department,” said Wood, 24, who had just been hired the week before the graduation. “I start Jan. 2, and I’ll be doing the field training program for four months.”
Wood was selected by her peers as one of two squad leaders, a position of greater responsibility in the class.
Academy Director Eric Anderson noted that graduating classes are usually about ten students larger than that. “We were overshadowed by COVID and things going on in the world,” he said.
But the smaller class made for closer relationships, some of which had already been established. Four of the graduates, Madali Harer of River Falls, Alexander Hoffman of Ellsworth, Michael Cadalbert of Baldwin, and Parker Dardine of Hudson, previously graduated from the Criminal Justice-Law Enforcement program at CVTC’s River Falls Campus.
Academy training is far more intense than a college criminal justice program, but the River Falls campus graduates say the program there prepared them well for the rigors of the Academy.
“I loved every minute of it,” Harer, who graduated from River Falls High School in 2018, said. “I thought the instructors were great. They taught out of their own life experiences.”
“Instructor Tom Gunderson really talked about community policing a lot, and that made an impression on me,” Hoffman, a May 2018 Ellsworth High School graduate, said. “And with the smaller class size, we got to know each other pretty well.”
“It’s a great program they have at CVTC,” said Cadalbert, a 2018 Baldwin-Woodville High School graduate. “The facilities and the training were great.”
Cadalbert also spoke of why he decided to go into the field. “I’ve always had great admiration for the men and women who have served, and I’ve had some family inspiration as well. My brother and cousin are both law enforcement officers, and they have trained at CVTC.”
Cadalbert and Dardine were honored with Disciplined Driver awards for their excellence in handling a squad car in a variety of exercises. But Hoffman captured the highest award, the Academic Excellence honor for having the highest test scores in a class that Anderson noted received overall high marks.
Mathew Berg, 20, of Lake Hallie, a 2018 Chippewa Falls Senior High School graduate, credits a Chippewa Falls Police Department officer with inspiring him to pursue the career.
“I had a great role model in Officer Joe Nelson, the school resource officer,” Berg said. “I liked how great he was talking with people and how professional he was.”
Berg said he has an application out at the Ellsworth Police Department for what might be his first job in the profession.
Rob Teuteberg, a former officer with the Chippewa Falls Police Department and now an Academy and CVTC Criminal Justice-Law Enforcement instructor was the featured speaker. He focused on sacrifice.
“These graduates had to sacrifice so much in their personal lives to accomplish this,” Teuteberg said. “They sacrificed on so many different levels, including physical sacrifices. Yet, I think overlooked is the sacrifice of the mind due to the weariness and the stress.”
Teuteberg noted that sacrifices would continue. “There is not a law enforcement officer in this country that has not missed a birthday or special family occasion, sometimes to go out and help someone.”
Anderson took time to thank several people, including the public that passed CVTC’s $48.8 million referendum last spring. Because of that, he said, there will be improvements made at the Emergency Services Education Center that will allow them to bring in house training locations they have previously had to find off campus.