Skagit Valley College’s Parks Law Enforcement Academy (PLEA) will conduct its 26th graduation ceremony on Monday, April 25th and celebrate the graduation of 27 cadets. The ceremony will take place at 1:00 pm in McIntyre Hall, which is located on SVC’s Mount Vernon Campus. The ceremony will also be streamed online at www.skagit.edu/pleagraduation .
The ceremony will include the presentation of colors by selected graduating cadets and Bellingham Pipeband Pipers led by Peter Rolstad, a rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner by graduating PLEA cadets Cristine Bell, Claire Stout, Lance Spear, and Curtis Stevens, and the Symbolic Oath of Honor presented by Mount Vernon Police Chief Jerry Dodd. Each cadet will receive his or her certificate from Bill Overby, PLEA Commander; Dr. Terry Edwards, Criminal Justice instructor; Jerry Dodd, Mount Vernon Police Chief; Gabe Asarian, Supervisory Park Ranger, North Cascades National Park; Dr. Tom Keegan, SVC President; and Darren Greeno, SVC’s Dean of Workforce Education.
Established in 1990, SVC’s highly successful PLEA program draws cadets from across the United States. In addition to 17 cadets from Washington state, this year’s class came from 9 states: Idaho, Maine, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.
In 2011 SVC’s PLEA Academy was nationally accredited by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Accreditation Board, and on April 15, 2016, received its five-year reaccreditation. SVC’s PLEA Academy holds distinction as one of only seven nationally accredited programs, making it highly desirable for prospective students. During the accreditation process, the National Park Service presented the seven satellite programs with a “national best practices” honor for its use of an online student informational, instructional, and testing tool.
The PLEA Academy is directed by SVC Department Chair and Commander Bill Overby, whose career spans 44 years in criminal justice, parks law enforcement, and higher education. In addition to his position at SVC, Overby serves as past chair of the Washington State Safety, Security, and Management Council for the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.
Under Commander Overby’s leadership, SVC’s PLEA Academy curriculum is comprised of 720 hours of rigorous classroom and field training, which exceeds the minimum 680-hour federal training standard. Instruction includes contemporary law enforcement tactics and legal information for visitor protection. Natural, cultural, and historic resources protection methods are also an emphasis, as well as a wide range of skill sets, practical exercises and hands-on labs.
Upon their graduation, the SVC PLEA graduates are prepared for Level II law enforcement duties with a variety of agencies. This year’s graduates have accepted positions to protect some of America’s most treasured parks and lands including the National Park Service, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Shenandoah, Glacier, Theodore Roosevelt, Canyonlands, Mount Rainier, North Cascades, and Northern Alaska National Parks; Washington State Parks, and Snohomish County Parks. The PLEA training also meets equivalency standards for State Reserve academy challenge testing, as sponsored by the Washington Criminal Justice Training Commission.