GRCC Police Academy to dedicate memorial to fallen alumni



Leah Nixon

Director of Communications

(616) 234-4213

Oct. 29, 2015 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Staff and students of Grand Rapids Community College's Police Academy will dedicate a memorial to the program's fallen alumni on Nov. 5.

Academy students have worked for more than a year to raise money and solicit donations for a memorial honoring alumni Bruce Van Popering, Robert Kozminski and Eric Zapata. Representatives of the officers' departments and their families have been invited to the dedication, which starts at 1:30 p.m. near the academy’s scenario training house on GRCC’s DeVos Campus. The ceremony will include a rifle salute.

Jodi Richhart, academy director, said the project started after she and a recruit class attended Zapata's funeral in 2011.

"My goal for the memorial is to continue to honor our graduates who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, while instilling a sense of duty, honor and pride in every recruit class that comes next," she said. "Law enforcement has a strong tradition of taking care of each other and the families. The memorial is a daily reminder to our recruits -- and to our community -- that no matter what happens on every shift, you and your family will always be taken care of and never forgotten."

Three Police Academy alumni have died in the line of duty:

  • Van Popering, an officer with the East Grand Rapids Department of Public Safety, died from injuries sustained after being struck by a vehicle while directing traffic after July 4th celebrations in 1994; he was a 1992 graduate.
  • Kozminski, an officer with the Grand Rapids Police Department, was fatally shot in 2007; he was a 1999 graduate.
  • Zapata, an officer with the Kalamazoo Public Safety Department, was fatally shot in 2011; he was a 1998 graduate.

To see a video about the project, click here.

At 6 p.m. Nov. 5, 32 students will graduate from the academy. President Dr. Steven C. Ender will address them during the ceremony at Ford Fieldhouse, 226 Lyon St. NE.

Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for 100 years. Established in 1914, the college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, and workshops and personal enrichment classes. Offerings are held on GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, and at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties, as well as through distance learning.