New officers graduate from police academy

June 25, 2002|by DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

They've been pepper sprayed, boxed and gone through sometimes grueling physical training that caused one recruit's kidneys to shut down.

On Monday, the 17 members of the 35th class of the Western Maryland Police Academy received their badges.

"Those 24 weeks seemed like an eternity. I'm glad it's over," said T.J. Buskirk, the newest Hancock police officer, who went through the academy with his brother Scott, now a Washington County Sheriff's deputy.

"It wasn't a walk in the park," Rich Miller said about the 24-week academy that left the Hagerstown firefighter ready to become a city fire marshal. Miller, 39, said extreme physical exertion and a previously unknown enzyme deficiency caused his kidneys to temporarily shut down around the third week of the academy.

On Monday, Miller said he's now in the "best shape of my life."

During the Monday graduation ceremony at Hagerstown Community College's Kepler Theater, Miller was given the Hi Ho award.


The award usually goes to the recruit who caused the most problems. But this time the award went to the recruit with "the most heart," said Hagers-town Sgt. Curtis Wood, who presented the award to Miller.

At the academy, which is run by the Hagerstown Police Department, recruits are put through a series of physical and written tests, spend time at the firing range and learn how to drive a police cruiser at high speeds.

"At first I thought I didn't like it. It was hard," said Richard Matthews, 29, now a Hagerstown police officer. "But once it's over, there is a sense of accomplishment."

Some family members seemed as glad as the new officers to be done with the academy.

"The first few weeks, I was so worried I was losing sleep," said the Buskirk brothers' mother, Hilda Buskirk. "I'm very proud of them."

"It's been a lifelong dream of his. We're very, very proud of him," said Scott Buskirk's wife, Michelle.

But Hilda Buskirk said she's also nervous for her sons.

"I have a police scanner and I'm going to have to turn it off when they're on duty," she said. If she doesn't, she said, she might be tempted to help her sons if they run into trouble while on duty.

About 300 friends, family and law enforcement representatives from around Western Maryland attended the Monday graduation ceremony.

Maryland House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, the guest speaker at the graduation, said the new officers have been "talking the talk" during their training.

"Now these wonderful graduates are going to walk the walk," Taylor said.

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