Five officers are joining the ranks of the Burbank Police Department after graduating from the Orange County Sheriff’s Academy in Tustin.
The 33 men and women who graduated Thursday night did so on the 50th anniversary of the sheriff’s academy, often touted as the toughest training academy in the nation, officials at the ceremony said.
One day before their graduation, the class participated in the traditional run for a cause near to the heart for Burbank officers, said Burbank Police Sgt. Claudio Losacco.
“The ‘Colors Run’ is a law enforcement academy tradition,” Losacco said in an email. “We’ve all done it. It’s a group run, which symbolizes the culmination of the arduous past several months the class has spent together. It’s a time for the class to share in some camaraderie and the happiness of completing the academy.
“It is also a time to instill the proper mindset that police officers need to survive and understand what the life calling of police work is all about. The run is meant to implant the ideas of brotherhood, the police family and a deep understanding of the job. The dedication of the run to a fallen officer, in this case Officer Matthew Pavelka, serves to solidify that the dangers are real and to pay respect to a hero who has given his life protecting our communities.”
Humility, self sacrifice, compassion and protection seemed to be the themes for the graduation ceremony, reminding those present of the scrutiny facing law enforcement as incidents across the country involving police have placed additional focus on the profession.
Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens was the evening’s keynote speaker, and disagreed that this was the toughest climate for law enforcement, noting that there are similarities today to what was going on when the academy’s first class graduated in 1965.
“Every generation has its challenges,” Hutchens said, adding that these new officers held the power to impact their agency’s reputation, beginning on their first day.
Hutchens added: “Now, more than any other time, there is a public outcry for better police relations — it is not the first time.”
The newest group of officers to join Burbank is comprised of three men and two women. They are: Benjamin Chu, Matthew Gibbs, Sadee Martinez, Karissa Peltier and Garrett Souza.
Two hold degrees in psychology, and two are UCLA graduates. Two hail from Burbank, and the others from Los Angeles, Valencia and Orange County.
Along with family members, the officers gathered outside after the ceremony with Police Chief Scott LaChasse, other members of the command staff and existing officers involved in the recruitment process.
They posed for photos with their flat badges and listened to a quick pep talk from LaChasse as family members and friends huddled around them.
“It is an absolute imperative that you do everything right,” LaChasse said, mentioning the national climate and the expectations for police. “Take care of each other by doing the right thing.”
LaChasse mentioned the graduates would receive a framed copy of the code of ethics, and he asked the young men and women to “protect the rights of all members of the community.”
“You have a lot of freedom in this job, while out on patrol,” LaChasse said. “There is not always someone looking over your shoulder. You should do the right thing, the right way, for the right reasons.”
One of the new officers, Chu, comes from a law enforcement family. His father is a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department and his twin brother is a deputy with the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Dept.
Chu said after the ceremony that he always planned to do this once he graduated from college.
“No,” Chu said quickly, when asked if he ever considered doing anything else. “It’s my dream job.”
Officer Souza, chosen as class president of academy class #216, spoke at the ceremony to the audience of about 1,000.
“We are enforcers of society’s own checks…protectors…,” Souza said. He asked the men and women graduating with him that evening to review the code of ethics throughout their careers, and to live by them.
“The police profession requires people that really care [about the community] to enter the profession,” Souza said after the ceremony. “For a short time in police history, individuals took this job because it paid well, because it was a stable career — not because they wanted to serve the community. I think we are entering a time in law enforcement where individuals with a servant’s heart are entering the profession again.”
Souza said he would like to become a public information officer for the department one day.
“I think a large problem with the community and police force is a lack of information and knowledge,” Souza said. “A public information officer should be a member of the community who serves the community and not another agenda — or try to be politically correct.”
During his speech, Souza quoted author and humor columnist Erma Bombeck by saying, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’.”
The five police recruits who graduated on Aug. 27 that will be joining the Burbank Police Department are:
Benjamin Chu, 26
Attended John Rowland High School and UCLA and graduated with a degree in psychology. Born and raised in Los Angeles.
His father is a detective with LAPD; his twin brother a deputy with San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department.
Matthew Gibbs, 27
Served in the U.S. Army, attended Hart High School and College of the Canyons.
He was born and raised in Valencia.
Sadee Martinez, 24
Attended John Burroughs High School and graduated from UCLA with a degree in Chicano Studies. Born and raised in Burbank. Holds several running records at JBHS and was a member of the UCLA Track and Field Team.
Karissa Peltier, 25
Attended John Burroughs High School and graduated from California State University, Northridge, with a degree in psychology. Born and raised in Burbank. Softball, swim and water polo athlete in high school. Played water polo in college.
Garrett Souza, 25
Attended Capistrano Valley High School and graduated from Whittier College with a degree in economics. Born and raised in Orange County. Selected as class president for his academy class.
Information on police recruits courtesy of the Burbank Police Department.