Columbus Police Academy graduates more diverse class

New Columbus Police Officer Craig Gibson shakes Mayor Andrew J. Ginther’s hand at the graduation ceremony.

A slightly more diverse class of police officers received badges Friday and soon will be hitting the streets of Columbus and other central Ohio communities.

Of the 52 recruits who began training at the Columbus Police Academy in December, 45 of them stood Friday before family and friends to take their oath, marking an end to 29 weeks of intensive training.

One of the top priorities of the Columbus Division of Police is diversity among the police force, said Chief Kim Jacobs. The 129th recruit class — with the highest academic average of any class in Police Division history — is made up of more than 30 percent minority officers, meaning nonwhite or female officers.

That percentage is higher than the current makeup of the Columbus Police Division, which Jacobs said is between 20 and 25 percent minority.

“We are always looking to have a variety of backgrounds,” she said. “The more we look like our community, the better we can understand and protect those people.”

Not only is the group more diverse in race and gender, but also in experience and skill sets. Among the recruits are a former pastor, an Ohio State University football player, military personnel and officers from other states.

Anthony Hamilton, a 27-year-old from Dublin, was thrilled to be among the graduating recruits. As his family left the auditorium of the police academy on the West Side, they swept him up in a tight embrace.

“It’s a great day,” said Hamilton, who will serve as an officer at Ohio State University. “I’ve always had a natural instinct to help others and be a pillar in the community, and I’m in a great position to bridge the gap between officers and people.”

Other graduates included former Ohio State football player C.J. Barnett. And there’s Jason Sekinger, who stands 6 feet 8 inches tall.

The graduates will undergo 15 weeks of field training, working with experienced officers, starting Sunday. Thirty-two of the new officers will join the Columbus Division of Police; the other 13 will become members of police forces in Gahanna, New Albany, Grove City, Westerville, Hilliard and at Ohio State.

“While others are running away from chaos, danger and crime, our officers are running toward it,” Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther said. “They’re trained by the best to be the best.”

“We came here to learn,” said new Columbus police Officer Sarvone Johnson, 44, in an address to the crowd. “Now we are leaving to serve.”

Originally published by The Columbus Dispatch on July 6, 2018.

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