By Alexander Tuerk
UPPER MARLBORO – The Prince George’s County Police Department (PGPD) celebrated 10 graduates of the basic officer training program on June 26, marking the completion of nine months of rigorous study and practice.
The new officers from Session 139 will be joining the police department, sheriff’s office, fire department and park police units.
The graduation was held at Riverdale Baptist Church, with officers in full uniform and others in church-appropriate attire on a 90 degree, cloudless day. Command staff and other invited speakers were present, as well as pews full of friends and family.
During the opening remarks by Chief of Police Henry P. Stawinski III and Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Mark Magaw, children were escorted down the aisles for bathroom breaks as the two chief officers implored the graduates to contemplate their new roles.
“Big things have small beginnings,” Stawinski said, referencing both the 2012 sci-fi film “Prometheus” and the T.E. Lawrence biopic “Lawrence of Arabia,” which came out in 1962.
“Despite the fact that your numbers are small,” Stawinski said, “I want to make it clear to you that the expectations of you are vast.” He said that in 2011, Prince George’s County saw over 100 crimes every 24 hours. As of June 26, 2019, Stawinski said they have 35 every 24 hours. “That is the mantle that you inherit,” Stawinski said.
Session 139 was then given time to speak regarding their graduation. One speech was given by Cekeithia Barnes, who joined the sheriff’s office. Of the many moments of hardship and white-knuckled effort the session experienced together, Barnes began her speech with the first day of training – Oct. 1, 2018.
The recruits were lined up outside of Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro waiting for their training to begin when a gold Chevrolet Impala pulled up next to them, Barnes said.
“The door opened, and all we saw was a shiny black boot hit the ground,” Barnes said. She said the boot belonged to Corporal Alexis Eason, co-coordinator for Session 139. “No one knew what was in store for us, but we knew we were in for it because one of our fellow student officers informed us that he forgot his belt.” Barnes did not identify the graduate.
Eason, according to Barnes, had little to say on the missing belt that October morning. “All I remember was her saying, ‘Outstanding.’”
Although the guest speakers and command staff focused their remarks on looking inward, the rest of Barnes’ speech went through the rest of training, thanking each instructor and mentor along the way. She acknowledged that the first half of training was “rocky” for the recruits, either physically or mentally challenging, but said that the session was proud of their accomplishments in the latter half.
Each graduate received their certificate of completion from the chief officer of their respective department and left the stage after their photograph had been taken.
One graduate, Charles Richardson, brought his parents onto the stage for the photo. Stawinski explained that both of Richardson’s parents are retired Prince George’s police officers, their son had joined the police department and followed in their footsteps.
Several awards were also given out for various achievements, such as top marksmanship, physical fitness or academic performance. Travis Underwood, who is joining the police department, achieved perfect scores on all of the final marksmanship tests, which tested his accuracy at both day and night.
The graduation ended with a benediction by Police Chaplain Francis Plummer, before the session was dismissed for the last time.
“There’s something about nine months (of training),” Plummer said. “That’s how much time it takes you to bring a new life into this world. These men and women have been given new lives, and their lives are to affect the lives of all different people here in Prince George’s County.”