2018-06-14 / Local News

Amid cop shortage, county student pursues law enforcement career

By Kelsey Pease
Enterprise intern


RACHEL VANTHOMME, a St. Mary and Career Tech Center student, was selected to attend the Law Enforcement Career Academy, which will cover leadership development, physical and defensive fitness activities, patrol training and more. RACHEL VANTHOMME, a St. Mary and Career Tech Center student, was selected to attend the Law Enforcement Career Academy, which will cover leadership development, physical and defensive fitness activities, patrol training and more. A Leelanau County student is heading to Lansing in July after being selected for this year’s Law Enforcement Career Academy.

Rachel VanThomme, now a senior at St. Mary School, is one of three Traverse Bay Area Career-Tech Center (CTC) students of the Public Safety/ Protective Services program chosen.

The week-long academy, co-sponsored by Michigan State Police and the Kiwanis Club, will feature police officers serving as instructors and will cover leadership development, physical and defensive fitness activities, patrol training and more.

To be selected, students are evaluated based on their demonstrated interest in the field, academic record, discipline and fitness.

For VanThomme, daughter of Eric and Tara VanThomme of Suttons Bay, wearing the badge is a life-long dream.

“Growing up, I was inspired by the work my dad does as the captain of the Suttons Bay-Bingham Fire Department,” VanThomme said. “I always knew that I wanted to do something along those lines.”

Due to a serious knee injury that ruled out her plans of being a fire fighter like her dad, VanThomme decided to pursue law enforcement instead.

“If I can’t make it through this academy, then I’ll know I can’t make it through the actual one to get my certification,” she said.

She expects the academy to be scary, but eye opening and life changing.

VanThomme’s instructor at the CTC, Tom Lennox, is confident in her ability to make it through the program. “It’s just about as rigorous as the actual three-week academy,” Lennox said. “She’s got the grit to get through it and it’ll be a great experience for her to bring back for her classmates.”

As both an instructor and Sheriff’s Deputy, Lennox is especially aware of the law enforcement shortage that our state is experiencing.

He hopes his work with students in the Public Safety/Protective Services program will be able to combat it.

“For about eight years now, departments have been struggling to find enough people with the moral character and strong drive that they want,” said Lennox, who worked in law enforcement for over 35 years as a Conservation Officer and City Police Officer prior to becoming a deputy.

Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich echoed Lennox’s concerns about the shortage.

“It’s statewide, and it’s due to a combination of relatively low pay scales and a lack of total commitment to go into all fields — law enforcement, fire, and EMS,” Borkovich said.

Borkovich attributes the lack of commitment to outside factors that are working against young candidates considering service careers.

In his opinion, media coverage of movements such as Black Lives Matter is having an unduly negative influence.

“I’ve spent my entire life saving people regardless of race, color, and sex,” Borkovich said. “These movements are particularly disturbing because they aren’t saving any lives; they’re agitators creating a lot of anti-police sentiment.”

In response, Borkovich said the best he can do is continue looking for good people to wear the uniform.

VanThomme is just one of them, and he says she’ll have a bright future in the field.

“She’s a good kid, strong athlete, and she’s got a great attitude,” he said. “She’s the kind of person that is determined to do what needs to be done.”

And VanThomme has already figured out what that is.

“I want to help save lives,” she said.

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