Seven Tazewell County men were among 34 cadets last week to graduate the Southwest Virginia Criminal Justice Academy’s 111th Basic Law Enforcement School.
Brandon Ward, George Hellas, Kerry Cline, Brandon Blanton, Cody Brown, Christopher Turner and Steven Wright spent the last 20 weeks studying everything from traffic control to criminal investigations, report writing to crime scene photography and everything in between.
Now, they’re out in the field finishing up their final training with their respective police agencies.
Following their graduation, Hellas, Cline, Blanton, Brown, Turner and Wright will sport the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office badge.
Sheriff Brian Hieatt said this class marks the largest number of TCSO cadets to graduate since he took the helm at the sheriff’s office. He said additional funding for school resource officers combined with already open positions called for the high number of recruits.
The training is rigorous, both mentally and physically, he said, so he was more than pleased when all six cadets came out of the academy with certificates in hand.
“It’s a long and hard process to get through the police academy,” Hieatt said. “For someone to be away from their family and put as much work into it to be successful, it takes a lot of hard work, so I’m very proud that we have such good officers who are able to do that.”
Two of the new sheriff’s deputies already had a background in corrections. Blanton, of Raven, previously worked at the Keen Mountain Corrections Center in Oakwood, and Wright, of Tazewell, worked at the regional jail in Tazewell.
Over in Richlands, the police department is welcoming Ward back to their ranks. Ward, of Grundy, joined the force last year, but had to postpone his training at the academy due to an injury. Before coming on as an officer in Richlands, Ward served for seven years in the United State Marine Corps.
“We’re real pleased to have Brandon out here with us,” said Richlands Police Chief Jerry Gilbert. “He’s done an excellent job out here on the road for us.”
Academy graduates are required to spend an additional six to eight weeks training under a certified field training officer with their agencies. Once their field training is complete, the new officers will start patrolling their respective communities.