Two academy grads earn LEEP awards
— By Jennifer Foley, POJ Editor
Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP) Award winner Julian Lee had already been hired into a full-time position with Chesterfield Township Police Department by the time he graduated
Macomb Police Academy.
The 24-year-old received a $1,000 LEEP Award for his leadership abilities and initiative when he graduated Dec. 9, 2015. He started working for Chesterfield Township Dec. 21.
“He served as our platoon leader, which means he was appointed cadet leader,” said Macomb Police Academy Director Charles Craft. “He was just an all around outstanding cadet.”
Livingston County Sheriff’s Department Corrections Officer Alex Capra, 26, also received a $1,000 LEEP Award during his graduation from Mott Community College Law Enforcement Regional Training Academy (LERTA) Dec. 23. “He works for Livingston County Sheriff’s Department, but he put himself through the academy. He is not sponsored,” said David Livingston, Training Director at LERTA. “He’s a Corrections Officer there, but you have to go to academy to get certified to work the road.”
POLC Executive Committee member Tom Wilk, Macomb College Police Department Captain, presented the $1,000 award to Lee and POLC Executive Committee member Collin Birnie presented Capra his award. The LEEP Award is given to graduating cadets at Michigan police academies in the metro area with the highest overall achievement who have not been sponsored by any police agency. To qualify for the LEEP Award, the cadets have to pass the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) certification test and meet MCOLES employment standards to become certifiable as a law enforcement officer in Michigan.
Lee received A’s in the academy, excelled in physical training, and mentored other cadets. “He won the physical training award for conditioning and leadership,” Craft said. “He handled a lot of issues himself within the academy, assisting fellow cadets with issues and problems. He was just really a great liaison between cadets and the academy.”
“I like being a role model,” Lee said. “I do an Out Of Bounds ministry backpack and hike through my church. I definitely like working with the youth and teaching them there’s more than just Xbox and the four corners of your house.”
Lee was asked by Macomb Township Christian Life Church’s pastor to help establish the program in which adults mentor youths, teaching them to fish, hike, backpack, build fires and other life skills. “I always like doing public service work,” Lee said, adding there’s been great feedback from families involved.
Lee served four years in the Army, being deployed to Afghanistan twice, before being honorably discharged in 2013. He has a background that made him a good candidate to lead others. “We look at every class for somebody with a fair amount of life experience that can serve … Even though he’s only 24 years old, he’s an incredibly mature guy,” Craft said.
Lee was in charge of having cadets show up for morning training with their uniforms in proper condition, and communicating scheduling issues with them. He made sure they adhered to their work details and flag details, using his military background to train them how to properly fold the American flag.
“We had a class of 41 cadets and it saves us the trouble of having to go to all of them and tell them things,” Craft said. “Also in that role, a lot of the cadets will confide in him issues they may not want to confide in full-time staff here. They do a lot of little things we ask them to do and it’s a leadership position.”
Lee earned an associate’s degree in Law Enforcement from Macomb Community College. “I’m not surprised he excelled here. He’s a very self disciplined person and I think he greatly enjoyed life in the military,” Craft said. “In the civilian life, the closest you’ll get to it is police work. He enjoys working with people and that’s a skill and trait that will draw you to this job.”
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do when got of out of the military,” however, Lee said, “I didn’t want to do the same day to day activities.” After a ride along with Chesterfield Township Police, Lee knew police work was his future. He wants to show teens the great things officers do to help their communities through service programs like Shop With A Cop, Out of Bounds and more. “I’m hoping to change the public perception of police officers,” Lee said. “Law enforcement works for them. Being a police officer is a life of service. When you pull over kids, you don’t want kids to think cops are bad. We don’t want them to be afraid of us.”
Lee is going through several major life changes all at once. He found out just before graduation that his wife was expecting their first child and the couple was busy looking for their first home by the end of the month as he started his new job. The LEEP Award couldn’t have come at a better time. “Winning that award was just a blessing, especially with a baby on the way. It helped my family financially,” Lee said. “I have an amazing wife that works who actually supported me though the whole academy. I wouldn’t be able to do it without her.”
Capra has been waiting three years to pursue police work. “My dad and my grandpa were both policemen and I got in the (Corrections) career with a goal that hopefully they’ll put me through
the academy,” the Livingston County Sheriff’s Department Corrections Officer said. However, Capra said, academy funding depends on finances and right now the county is expanding the jail, adding 200 beds.
Capra is applying for the only open patrolman position in his department along with 60 other applicants. ”I put myself through (the academy) knowing an opening would be coming up,” Capra said. “If you’re certified you can apply for it.”
He stood out among his peers having earned top honors among the 22 recruits in his graduating class. “The LEEP Award goes to the highest academic score of a non-sponsored academy recruit. He got the highest class academic average,” Livingston said. “He got the Top Gun award for being the best shooter. He’s conscientious and he always was the last one to turn his tests in. He did what was asked of him. He was just a good recruit.”
“I didn’t even know such a scholarship existed,” Capra said. “Whenever I take tests, I try to do my best. It was good to hear that all my efforts worked out.”
Capra earned an associates degree in Criminal Justice from Mott Community College and is nearly finished with a bachelor’s degree in the same field with a minor in communications at Saginaw Valley State University. He completed his associate’s and the academy while working his Corrections job part-time. “They were very helpful in working with me to make sure I was able to complete (the academy),” Capra said of the Sheriff’s Department. “It was tough – I was working on the weekends while I was going through academy. I just used my vacation and my comp time to maintain my health insurance.”
Capra said he was surprised and really thankful for the LEEP Award. “Working and cutting back hours was quite hard while I was trying to study,” Capra said. “Everybody (at the academy) worked real hard and it was just nice somebody else was thinking of us.”
Capra is pursuing a patrolman position now and hopes to advance to a Sergeant or the Detective Bureau as his career progresses.