One of Tuesday night's graduates, Angela Kelley, said the program gave her an idea of what local law enforcement does.
“I enjoyed it — it was really informative,” she said, echoed by fellow graduate James Ripley, who called his training “excellent.”
The youngest member of the course, Tyler Gilpin, 20, said he took it to compliment his studies in criminal justice at Trinity Valley Community College.
“It's a good class,” Gilpin said. “I plan on being a peace officer here at Christmas, so it's something to get used to I guess.”
During the ceremony, PPD Chief Robert Herbert congratulated students, stating he was appreciative of the time and assistance they give to the department.
“It's been a long 12 weeks,” Herbert said, dragging out the word long – which prompted laughs and one graduate's tongue-in-cheek “yeah!”
“But it's been a lot of fun,” he added. “I've heard some of the stories. The ride-outs were really great... This whole business that we work in – it's a very tough business. So you've got a little taste of it. You guys gave 12 weeks of your life to us, and I really, really appreciate it.”
Palestine Mayor Therrell Thomas also congratulated students. Thomas was a member of Palestine's first COP course and said he still goes on patrols from time to time.
“How many of y'all see law enforcement, locally or abroad, in a different way?” he asked, prompting hands to go up across the room. “It's not what you see in TV. It's not what you think it is, for the most part.”
Thomas said he was grateful for the volunteer hours each graduate put in.
“Volunteerism is really the key,” he said. “When you volunteer your time, your hours, your energies, your resources – that's what really makes a difference, and it goes a lot further, so I just want to say thank you on behalf of the city of Palestine. It helps our police department and it helps our city.”
PPD Officer Patsy Smith, who spearheaded efforts to bring the class to Palestine, also shared her gratitude, along with future aspirations.
“The importance of this program is huge. Just to be able to have y'all apart of our organization to me is a blessing,” Smith said, “We're looking forward to getting started with our third class.”