The VCU Police department hosted the graduation ceremony for the 40th class of its Law Enforcement Academy on Oct. 2.
The class of nine officers completed a 24-week training course to earn their badges, bringing the VCU PD’s number of sworn officers up to 92. The ceremony included keynotes by Virginia court of appeals judge Marla Graff Decker, who spoke on the issues facing public relations and law enforcement, and Police Chief John Venuti.
I want to thank you for making the commitment to go into law enforcement in probably one of the most challenging times in law enforcement history,” Graff said. “Recognize you have awesome powers, but your awesome powers are to be used wisely, and only to be used when necessary,” Graff said.
Jason Helmlinger, president of the graduating class, spoke on the need for officers to maintain a level mentality on and off duty.
You have to be intentional,” Helmlinger said. “How you respond is everything . . . you can’t control the circumstances of a call, but you can control your reaction to it.”
According to Chief Venuti, the additional officers will help the department on its mission to help the community. Venuti stressed a message he said he reiterates with every class of officers.
In every situation you involve yourself in, remember these six words: ‘keep them safe, and help them,’” Venuti said.
Venuti said that for his department to continue providing a high level of service to the community, the VCU PD needs to be fully staffed, while ensuring that each of the officers has the attitude required to be successful on duty.
When they begin the academy class I completely immerse them in the culture of what I want VCU police officers to do,” Venuti said. “I begin very early on with showing them the habits I want them to have, and I want them to bend over backwards to help this community.”
According to Academy Director Captain Mike O’Berry, the graduating class maintains these values of service. During training, Berry said the new officers collected trash, at one point compiling a total of 200 pounds, and assisted Kroger patrons with carrying their groceries to cars.
A lot of the community service stuff they did on their own, so I think they have already bought into (the department’s philosophy),” O’Berry said.
Since their graduation, the new officers will now enter the next stage of training — bike skills.
Venuti said the class still has to complete 80 shifts of field training where they’ll ride with a veteran officer whose job it is to ensure the skills taught in the academy.
“So it will be a while before they are out on the street by themselves, but we are very deliberate and intentional with the officers I select to place them with in field training because we are a different police department than we were five years ago,” Venuti said.