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First class graduates from Citizen’s Police Academy
   
 
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By Emily Hill, ehill@starlocalnews.com, @eh_scnnews on Twitter
June 13, 2013 3:33 PM CDT

LITTLE ELM, Texas - Although this graduating class may seem small, it’s actually quite a number of participants when it’s the first graduating class of its kind.

Recently, 17 residents graduated from the Little Elm Police Department Citizen’s Police Academy. The class spent 14 weeks training and learning what the LEPD officers do on a daily basis. They participated in ride-alongs with officers and even learned how to shoot a gun.

"I think everyone should go and do something like this because you will have a newfound respect for what [officers] do," said Curtis Savage, a graduate and LEISD school board trustee.

After the Presentation of Colors was led by Cpl. Jay Compton, Cpt. Rodney Harrison welcomed the graduates and their families to the academy’s first ceremony. Little Elm Town Manager Matt Mueller expressed his thanks to the police department for what they do on a daily basis.

"It makes me very, very proud," Mueller said. "I rarely see a complaint on our officers, but I see three or four letters of appreciation.

"[You, graduates, were] willing to take that time away from your private life to see what [LEPD] does here. You have made the town of Little Elm a better place."

Sgt. Steve Garst, the pioneer for this academy, gave an overview of what the graduates had done, a background on its origins and his goal of making it fun. The idea for the program first came about four years ago when Garst and Police Chief Waylan Rhodes started talking about doing something like the academy for citizens. Garst said after the opening of the Public Safety Center, both decided that now was the time to start the program.

"Once you put on the uniform, your viewpoint behind it is different," Garst said.

A handful of the graduates shared their experiences with the academy. Efren Olvera said every officer they met were respectful. Chuck Fikes, Parks supervisor, said he learned a lot about things he never thought about such as the people the department encounters.

"This has been such an educational point for me," Fikes said. "I learned so much more. Your police department is fantastic."

 One graduate, Mike Wooten, presented a basket of cookies with the LEPD logo on them to the police department as a thank you near the end of the ceremony.

"[We want to] show our appreciation," Wooten said.

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