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Two Police Academy alumni share their passion for the work

June 26, 2024

Why do you suppose people choose a career in law enforcement? Often it’s because someone showed them it was worth exploring. That’s one of the many reasons it’s important for GRCC’s Police Academy to represent the diversity of West Michigan. 

Deputy Karen Barrose jokes she got interested in law enforcement because Scooby Doo and his mystery-solving buddies captured her imagination. That may be true, but this woman’s skills far surpass anything that Daphne or Velma ever dreamed of having. Barrose grew up in a Spanish-speaking home. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Science and a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice Administration. A high school friend recruited her to the GRCC Police Academy. Now she’s a school resource officer in Kentwood schools. 

“I love planting seeds with kids and watching them grow,” Barrose said. “You don’t often get to see that in law enforcement, because you interact with someone once and then you’re done. But in this role, I’m in the school every day. I get to build bridges with kids and their parents.” 

People in uniform practice CPR on dummies.

That job isn’t always easy. 

“Kentwood schools are very diverse and that brings some challenges,” Barrose said. “I’ve had kids say, ‘I don’t like the police,’ but that changes once they see past my uniform. The kids are just looking for someone to genuinely care and listen. I have great interactions with them, which is important because these kids are our future. I want to help them form good habits while they are young. I had people who mentored me and I want to do the same for these kids.”

Deputy Nicko’s Rosser took a circuitous route to law enforcement, having started with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and then a degree in personal training before earning a master’s degree in order to apply for the Secret Service. Although his eyesight ultimately kept him out, he had caught the law enforcement bug. He was recruited to the Police Academy by the previous director and loves it. Rosser is also a school resource officer, working in Kent County for Rockford Public Schools. 

“We teach a curriculum that includes cyber security, sexting, drugs and alcohol, and a lot more. But we’re primarily there to build relationships with the kids and the community,” Rosser said. 

For Rosser, this job is the fulfillment of all his previous career work. 

“The kids drive me crazy sometimes, but they also bring so much joy. Every career I’ve had seems to come back to helping kids grow up well, so I think this is my purpose in life. Sometimes it’s frustrating to tell kids the same things over and over again. I keep hoping it will sink in and they will make changes.” 

He says the extracurricular part of his job is just as important as what happens in the schools. 

“I am there to build relationships in the community as much as I am to build them in the school. What’s fantastic is my sergeants are very open to me being present in whatever way makes sense. If I have an idea, they say ‘yes.’ Community presence is an important part of recruiting. I didn’t see many black police officers when I was growing up. None of my childhood friends wanted to become police officers. But now I can represent a new option for the kids who see me in uniform.” 

Barrose and Rosser agree that GRCC’s flexible program made it possible to fulfill their law enforcement goals. They both worked while attending the Police Academy. 

“This was the only program that let me do that,” Rosser said. “It meant a lot of early mornings and late nights, but I could still work and provide for myself while getting an education that is considered to be one of the best in the state.” 

Two people handcuff another person.

Barrose felt the same way. 

“I was working and providing for myself, so I needed a program that would allow me to do both. I also needed something affordable. Other programs cost as much as my master’s degree did, and I wouldn’t have been able to work while attending.”

GRCC offers two Police Academy options in the Public Service Pathway. In the two-year program, which starts in the fall, students can earn an associate degree in combination with completing the Police Academy. Typically, these are students who are exploring law enforcement prior to being hired. The other Academy starts every January and is designed for people who already have been hired by law enforcement. Many of them work as cadets while attending the Academy.

“We have a great program with a diverse instructor pool from many local law enforcement groups,” said Director David Kok. “In three of the last four sessions, we’ve had a 100% pass rate on the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) licensing test. Recruiters from all over the state want to meet our students. I typically invite mostly West Michigan departments, however, since that’s where we’re located.” 

Walker Police Department has hired 12 new officers since 2020, and eight of them graduated from GRCC’s Police Academy. Administrative Captain Brandyn Heugel from Walker is one of the GRCC instructors. According to her, GRCC plays a vital role in filling the law enforcement pipeline with people who know how to work together. Building a sense of community among recruits is an important first step toward how they will work together in the field.  

“The collaboration here starts at the top,” Heugel said. “All our area chiefs and the sheriff work together. GRCC Police Academy instructors come from all the different departments in West Michigan. They work together to train the students on scenarios with multi-jurisdictional response. So before they even go to their respective departments, these students learn how to work together and back each other up.”

There’s one last thing that both Barrose and Rosser agree on, and that’s a love of the work. 

“I don’t see myself going anywhere,” Barrose said. “I was not a road person. If given a choice between making a traffic stop and playing with kids in a playground, I would find the kids every time! If I can keep being a resource officer for the next 20 years, I will be thrilled. I’m so glad Director Kok mentored me and helped me succeed in this program.”

“I wish I had started when I was younger!” Rosser declared. “I work for a great department. They take care of you like family. I plan to retire from here.” 

This story was reported by Julie Hordyk.