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Graduated and ready to help protect public

Police Corps group focused on the community

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TAYLORSVILLE — They wore white gloves and marched to their proper places Friday morning. Speakers told them how the Rodney King incident in Los Angeles heightened awareness that police need to be in better touch with their communities.

The group of 12 — all men — was the second in Utah to graduate from the Police Corps, totaling 38 statewide. Police Corps is a new national program designed to attract college-educated people to careers working as officers for police, highway patrol and forest services. The federal government pays for the military-academy-style, 20-week training, as well as living expenses. All graduates must serve their departments for four years after graduation.

During Police Corps training, the cadets were in class nine to 15 hours a day, five days a week. They studied law, role-played probable situations to which they would respond, and exercised. The regimen largely focused on community policing — interacting with children and teens, problem-solving with the community.

Leadership is a key ingredient of the program, West Valley Police Chief Alan Kerstein told the graduates at the Department of Public Safety Headquarters. Some in the group will probably re-enter civilian life after their four years are up but will continue to "serve the innocent" in other ways — by becoming lawyers, doctors or judges.

The graduates also were encouraged to be compassionate and committed and to avoid corruption. They pledged to be exemplary citizens in their personal and professional lives.

The graduates studied a variety of subjects, from business administration to foreign languages. Those accepted to the Police Corps program while in college received money for school.

Friday's graduates will work for various city police agencies throughout Utah including the Utah Highway Patrol and the Division of Wildlife Resources. Utah is one of 25 states with an active Police Corps.

"The highly motivated, qualified graduates from the Police Corps program (are) an asset to local communities," said Mary Lou Leary, acting assistant attorney for the Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs. "By successfully completing this rigorous training program, these new police officers are equipped with the necessary skills, knowledge and leadership to become effective officers in this new era of community policing."

E-mail: lhancock@desnews.com