14 cadets graduate Madison College as police profession faces ‘tense times’

14 cadets graduate Madison College as police profession faces ‘tense times’

Many of the 14 law enforcement cadets walking across Madison College’s stage Friday night know they are heading directly into an occupation that finds itself under unprecedented scrutiny.

“It’s kind of a tense time to come to law enforcement, for law enforcement officers that are currently in it,” 128th Law Enforcement Academy class president Sam Vollrath said.

“They have been through a lot of social events. That was really a litmus test to their own character,” academy director Brian Landers said. “And they’re here to graduate. And they’re here to announce to the whole world that they’re ready to go off and be law enforcement. The next generation of police officers in our community. And I’m incredibly proud of them.”

From viewing national and local racial tensions, graduates from the college’s 128th academy say they have learned important lessons about the use of force and how to act on the job.

“It energized, it focused us that much more. Again, going back to ‘we want to be change.’ We want to be that class that comes out and makes a difference,” Vollrath said.

The 128th academy’s classes started right before the decision in Ferguson not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in Michael Brown’s shooting death. The graduates, including Vollrath who is now a Mable Bluff officer, join the workforce on the heels of Madison Officer Matt Kenny not facing criminal charges in Tony Robinson’s shooting death.

“We want to be that class that comes up in addition to current law enforcement officers, and puts our best foot forward to bring people back to having confidence in law enforcement officers again,” Vollrath said.

Part of Vollrath’s class president leadership has also included guiding his fellow cadets through officer-involved shooting deaths, including Wisconsin State Trooper Trevor Casper.

“It’s powerful,” Vollrath said. “Just seeing that somebody working in your current field or future field lose their life is tough. But it also makes you take your training that much more seriously.”

The 128th graduating class is a first in Madison College history. The 14 graduates have continued working their full-time day jobs and completed their 520 hours of training during nights and weekends.

“One thing were really proud of with this group is they achieved one of the highest grade point averages ever at the law enforcement academy,” Landers said. “You’re getting an officer who’s obviously showing a commitment to not only the theories, but the investigations. The legal end of things.”