New deputy sheriffs grow together at Penn State–run academy

From left to right, William Banks, of the York County Sheriff’s Office; Larissa McGhee, a deputy sheriff in Centre County; and Ian Cooper, of the Berks County Sheriff’s Office.
From left to right: William Banks, York County Sheriff’s Office; Larissa McGhee, Centre County Sheriff’s Office; and Ian Cooper, Berks County Sheriff’s Office. Credit: Dave White / Penn State. Creative Commons

The newest class of Pennsylvania deputy sheriffs will return to their home communities prepared to serve after graduating from the Commonwealth’s Penn State–run training academy on November 18.

During the 19-week program, the diverse group of 39 cadets became “a family,” said class platoon leader William Banks.

The retired U.S. Marine from York County said graduation will be emotional after the group grew so close. Many of his fellow classmates affectionately referred to him as “dad” during their time training together. Banks said he is proud of what the group accomplished.

“This platoon came together quickly in order to do what we needed to do in spite of the differences of views, likes, and dislikes,” Banks said. “You have so many people, from so many areas, and we all came together with one common goal. That is to serve the people of the Commonwealth.”

The Pennsylvania Sheriff and Deputy Sheriff Education and Training Program, run by the Penn State Justice and Safety Institute (JASI), trains newly hired sheriffs and deputy sheriffs from all of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. The academy, held in State College, provides instruction in several law enforcement areas, including Pennsylvania crime codes and civil procedures, cultural diversity, ethics, firearms, first responder/first aid, defensive tactics, courtroom security and physical training.

It was a passion to serve his community that brought class president Ian Cooper to the academy after working in education for many years.

“My heart was always in law enforcement and being able to make a difference in my community,” said Cooper. He said the training he received at the academy will help him do just that when he returns to the Berks County Sheriff’s Office after graduation.

“From top-to-bottom, it has been a great experience,” Cooper said. “I have learned way more than I thought I would. Through all of this, I feel like I definitely have the knowledge to go back and perform my duties without hesitation. I think that is the whole goal of the academy, so they really did a good job of preparing us for when we go back home.”

Like Banks, he said the platoon benefited from the varied ages and backgrounds of the cadets.

“It just showed that no matter where you are in life, there is an opportunity to get into the field if that is what you really want to be,” Cooper said.

The graduating class will be the 64th since the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency selected Penn State JASI as the academy’s administrator in 2000. Sheriffs and deputy sheriffs; judges; attorneys; and local, state and federal law enforcement officers help deliver the training.

For Larissa McGhee, a deputy sheriff from Centre County, the academy was an opportunity to expand on her studies of criminal justice. The Penn State undergraduate student took a semester off from classes to complete the training. She said she expects to feel a deep sense of accomplishment during the graduation ceremony.

“A lot of people in class have prior military experience, so they have done things that are similar, but I have not done anything like this before, so that is pretty exciting. I am excited to go back to work with what I have learned,” McGhee said. “I am going to use stuff that I learned here every day.”

Penn State Justice and Safety Institute partners with Penn State Harrisburg’s School of Public Affairs.