St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office Citizens Police Academy’s 19th session comes to a close with a graduation ceremony

Posted: October 30th, 2017 | Filed under: News Releases

Flanked by course coordinators, Capt. Charles Borchers, far left, and Sgt. Eric Eilers, far right, are members of the 2017 graduating class of the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office Citizens Police Academy, seated, from left: Nicolle Adams, Aileen Alfortish, Mike Sherwood, Joe Loustalot, Mark Loustalot Jr., Mark Loustalot, Ruth Umfrey, Beth Inbau, Curtis Brown and Valencia Woods. Standing, from left: Tommy Adams, Charlie Alfortish, Justin Goelz, Janie Fuller, Debbie Loustalot, Carrie Menesses Bernal, Maryam Uloho, Ashley Bankston, Syed Islam, Craig Leonard, Gretchen Uchello and Anthony Uchello. Not pictured are: Pamela Starr, Kimberly Serpas, Jodi Eschette.

James B. Arey, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Training Center director and commander of the SWAT Negotiation Team, speaks during the Citizens Police Academy graduation.

Anthony Uchello, a member of the graduating class of the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office Citizens Police Academy’s 19th session, gave a speech on behalf of his entire class.

Capt. Charles Borchers, who coordinates the Citizens Police Academy along with Sgt. Eric Eilers, speaks to the graduates during a ceremony held in their honor for completing the 10-week course.

St. Bernard Sheriff James Pohlmann addresses the graduates of the 19th session of the Citizens Police Academy.

This scroll bearing “A Policeman’s Prayer” was presented by Anthony and Gretchen Uchello, on behalf of their entire Citizens Police Academy graduating class, to Capt. Charles Borchers and Sgt. Eric Eilers for their efforts in coordinating the annual course.

Members of the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office Color Guard who presented the colors during the Citizens Police Academy graduation held Oct. 26 at Nunez Community College are, from left: Dep. Jeremy Lobre, Lt. Michael Lyons, Sgt. Eric Wickbolt and Dep.Clayten Burns.

Following the graduation ceremony, graduates enjoyed some cake with Sheriff Pohlmann, Capt. Charles Borchers and Sgt. Eric Eilers.

“The thing that impressed and surprised our class the most was the amount of training and experience your deputies and officers have,” said Citizens Police Academy graduate Anthony Uchello to St. Bernard Sheriff James Pohlmann during a speech he gave on behalf of the entire graduating class of the coure’s 19th session.

Uchello addressed the crowd during a graduation ceremony held Oct. 26 at Nunez Community College in Chalmette in honor of the two dozen Academy graduates.

During his speech, Uchello said he felt the most powerful part of the course was the things they saw and heard from the instructors.

“Every class, everywhere, we saw men and women who are dedicated. Men and women who deeply care about their community,” he said.

The Citizens Police Academy is a 10-week, free program offered by the Sheriff’s Office that is designed to provide residents with the opportunity to learn more about what the men and women of the department do on a day-to-day basis to keep their community safe. More than 800 citizens have completed the course since its inception.

During the course, participants heard from veteran representatives of each division of the Sheriff’s Office who spoke on various phases of law enforcement, including patrol work, narcotics enforcement, detective duties, and SWAT team demonstrations. They also visited the Parish Courthouse and Parish Prison.

At the graduation ceremony, Capt. Charles Borchers, who coordinates the program along with Sgt. Eric Eilers, reminded the graduates of their new role in the community.

“As law enforcement professionals, we realize we can’t do this alone. We need your help. We feed off the information that you give us,” Capt. Borchers said. “As you graduate tonight, you become our ambassadors, our spokespersons. You help us create public safety and a better quality of life.”

Sheriff Pohlmann also spoke at the graduation, as did guest speaker James B. Arey, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Training Center director and commander of the SWAT Negotiation Team. Nunez Community College Chancellor Thomas Warner and St. Bernard District Attorney Perry Nicosia also addressed the crowd.

Sheriff Pohlmann praised the graduates for seizing the opportunity to get an intimate look at what goes on behind-the-scenes at the Sheriff’s Office.

“We ask that y’all take the information you have learned through this program out into the community and utilize it,” the Sheriff said.

Arey also commended the graduates for taking time out of their busy schedules to participate in such a worthy program.

“You get to see what we do,” Arey said. “You are now the eyes and ears of the Sheriff’s Office and of the community. Now you know more about the Sheriff’s Office than others who haven’t taken this course.”

During Uchello’s speech, he mentioned the fact that he and his wife, Gretchen, who also is a graduate of this year’s Academy, aren’t originally from St. Bernard. He was raised in the Irish Channel, and later Metairie, and Gretchen is from River Ridge.

“We lived all over the city – Uptown, Bucktown, East Bank, West Bank, even Slidell, but we had never lived in St. Bernard before,” Uchello said.

Following Hurricane Katrina, the couple evacuated to Houston where they lived for five years. When they were ready to come back home, Uchello said they started looking for a place to live when they quickly realized how much things had changed.

“The traffic was different. The restaurants were different. The neighborhoods were different. The people were different. The schools were different. The crime was different,” he said. “We realized we had to re-learn our city.”

During their search for a place to call home, Uchello said he and his wife realized St. Bernard seemed to stand out.

“We liked who we met, and what we saw. The schools were nice. The people were friendly. And the crime was very low compared to the rest of the GNO area,” Uchello said. “Why was that? That was the question we had.”

After completing the Citizens Police Academy, the Uchellos, who live in Meraux, said the answer to that question became obvious to them, and everyone else in their class.

“It’s so obvious how much your department truly cares about the people it serves,” Uchello said to Sheriff Pohlmann. “Thank you for building a department that is passionate about their profession and their community.”