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Penn State program graduates new sheriff deputies

by on May 24, 2018 9:00 AM

UNIVERSITY PARK — After a 19-week training course, 34 newly minted deputy sheriffs will be ready to serve as law enforcement officers after graduating from a special Penn State program May 18.

The Penn State Justice and Safety Institute is the lone administrator for Pennsylvania’s Sheriff and Deputy Sheriff Education and Training Program, which all sheriffs and deputy sheriffs from Pennsylvania’s 67 counties must complete before beginning active duty. The program has been taking place at Penn State since 2000, and this month’s class was the 54th group of deputy sheriffs to graduate since then.

The academy, held in State College, provides expertise in several law enforcement areas, including Pennsylvania crime codes and civil procedures, cultural diversity, ethics, firearms, first responder/first aid, defensive tactics, courtroom security and physical training. The Penn State Justice and Safety Institute uses judges, attorneys and local, state and federal law enforcement officers to help deliver the training.

Centre County Sherriff Bryan Sampsel was on hand to see Deputy Nicole Smith, of State College, finish her training. He said the training is very good and he trusts it to prepare his deputies for their duties in his department.
Smith graduated from Penn State in 1997, then worked for 20 years in the human service field before deciding to become a sheriff’s deputy.

“Almost exactly 20 years from me getting my bachelor's, and here I am back at Penn State doing this," said Smith. "I am maybe more proud about this than my bachelor's. The training was very good; we learned a lot. It really took you out of your comfort zone at times, and you had to persevere. We all grew so much.”

Smith was the only Centre County graduate in this class, but was joined by classmates from around the commonwealth. Class president Edward Dempsey addressed the crowd during the ceremony, saying that the class grew strong together during the training. He hoped they would stay connected as they go out on to their law enforcement careers.

Jennifer Gibbs, assistant professor of criminal justice, also addressed the graduates, telling them they  always will be a part of the Penn State family. Gibbs encouraged them to continue their educations. Through the course, they gained 16.5 college credits.

Centre County Magisterial Judge Carmine Prestia was the ceremony's keynote speaker. Prestia has been an instructor for the program since it began, but this will be the last class he will train. He said he will miss teaching the classes.

“I am proud to say that every class that I taught challenged me to grow through the program, so thank you for that,” he said.

Prestia and others made sure to acknowledge the families of the deputies, as the 19-week class is a long time to be away from family. He also encouraged the deputies to act morally and ethically as they move into careers as law enforcement officers.

“Every human being has value and is worthy of respect, regardless of their state and situation. Our work is grounded in the fair and ethical treatment of everyone we deal with," said Prestia.

“After you receive your diplomas and go back home to start your careers, I hope you remember my humble advice, and every passage you take through life leads to personal success and satisfaction. Make your lives such that your children and their children may rise up and call you blessed.”

Vincent Corso is writer for Town&Gown and the Centre County Gazette.
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