NEWARK — Central Ohio Technical College held a graduation ceremony on Nov. 21 to honor graduates of the peace officer basic training program and name the Officer Thomas W. Cottrell Jr. Award for Character and Dedication to Public Service recipient.
The following students graduated from BAS Class #19-029 under Commander Jeff Sowards — Clara Bernthold, Lancaster; Jordan Jones, Dresden; Hannah Looney, Danville; Sarah McCreery, Coshocton; Joshua Neely, Howard; Zachary Raaker, Etna; Benjamin Smith, Thornville; Kara Spence, Heath; and Peyton Yost, Johnstown.
“This is a special class,” said Sowards. “All the graduates passed the state peace officer exam on the first try with an average score of 91.6, surpassing two of the top academies in the state.” All of COTC’s 2019 academies combined achieved an average score of 90.38, making COTC’s POBT the second highest scoring open enrollment academy in the state, he added.
Knox County Sheriff David Shaffer provided the keynote address.
“This is a field of great honor and respect,” he said before sharing lessons he has learned. “This isn’t just a job, this is who you are. Try to treat everyone with respect, and dress sharply to get more respect. You may want to change the way things are done, but ask yourself why it’s done in that way. Never take anyone’s anger personally, and always take advantage of your training.”
Melissa Osborn, Officer Cottrell’s mother, presented the Officer Cottrell Award, saying, “Tommy loved a lot of things, but most of all he loved being a police officer. He chose to be an officer because of the compassion shown by an officer to him in his youth. This path can sometimes be difficult and feel thankless, but stay on your path because you will make a significant impact.”
Raaker was the recipient of the Officer Cottrell Award. “It’s an honor, and I’m very grateful,” he said. “It’s humbling to be able to align myself with someone held in such high regard.”
Cottrell was a 2002 graduate of COTC’s basic police academy. He was killed in the line of duty in January 2016. The Officer Cottrell Award is presented by the Cottrell family at each graduation ceremony. It is the highest honor a cadet can receive. The selection of the recipients is based on many factors including, but not limited to, academic success and overall leadership and character. The $1,000 award assists the recipient with equipment purchases and other expenses associated with beginning a career in law enforcement.
Graduates’ scores on the state certification exam ranked second in the state among open enrollment academies and fifth overall according to a 2018 report by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.