By Ashley Conroy - email
RANKIN COUNTY (WLBT) - It was a proud day Thursday for 53men and women from all over Mississippi.
The Mississippi Law Enforcement Officer Training Academy (MLEOTA) held it's 230th graduation since 1967.
However, it was the first time the MLEOTA allowed "self-sponsored" recruits to enter the 10-week training course.
"I was unsure of what to expect when I came out here, but I am so thankful that they gave me the opportunity," said Sam Howard of Jackson.
Howard has a background as a fireman and was a criminal justice major in college, but he knew he always wanted to go into law enforcement.
"I have learned so much in the past 10 weeks, and I am very grateful for it," Howard said.
The other graduate, Donald Bryant of Byhalia, also has always had a passion for law enforcement.
He is currently an electrical engineer and has traveled all over the Middle East for work. When he first heard of this opportunity, he didn't want to pass it up.
"If you have a real passion for it, it's worth every penny. It's worth it," Bryant said.
Bryant also hopes to set an example for future "self-sponsored" recruits who choose to enter the program.
"Us self-sponsored graduates are setting the pace for other self-sponsored graduates that are coming in to the academy," he said.
Assistant Director Thomas Tuggle said they do plan to continue the self-sponsored status looking for new recruits.
"These two individuals were very successful, and that's something we're going to continue," said Thomas.
Tuggle said the reason MLEOTA decided to pursue this measure was because of the large strain on some departments to hire new officers.
"We decided to open up the doors for somebody who has the money, has the means to pay for an education," said Tuggle.
Additionally, this was the first class to have 15 females. Tuggle said he hopes this trend will continue as more and more women are signing up for law enforcement.
The program costs $3,000 and self-sponsored recruits are responsible for any workman's compensation claims that may result from the training.
The next training course starts in July, and another one will begin in September.
The number for the academy is (601) 933-2100 for those interested and its web site is under the Mississippi Department of Public Safety at www.dps.state.ms.us.
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