LEEP Awards continue legacy of former Macomb College Police Director
— By Jennifer Gomori, POJ Editor
The man who led the charge to honor police academy graduates who excel in the academy while bearing all of the tuition costs themselves recently retired, but his efforts continue to pay off.
Aaron Coates, 24, is the last Macomb Police Academy graduate to be awarded the Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP) Award while Tom Wilk was Director of Macomb College Police. Wilk retired from that post in December 2016 and his position on the POLC Executive Committee.
Wilk pushed for the once $500 award, which was raised to $1,000 in recent years. In his honor, the 2017 award winners will have even more to thank LEEP for when the award is doubled to $2,000.
Coates was one of two academy graduates presented the $1,000 LEEP Award in December 2016.
He was among 36 pre-service cadets in the Macomb Police Academy class of 44, which graduated Dec. 14, 2016. Pre-service cadets pay for the academy themselves. The LEEP Award is presented twice yearly to graduates with the highest overall achievement who have not been sponsored by any police agency. To qualify, cadets had to pass the MCOLES certification test and meet MCOLES employment standards to become certifiable as law enforcement officers in Michigan.
“He was in the top ten in physical performance and academics and overall performance,” said Macomb Police Academy Director Raymund Macksoud. “He was a complete package. That’s what made us select him for the LEEP scholarship. He did everything he needed to do in the academy.”
Coates said the LEEP Award helped him make ends meet while completing the academy. “With the cost of police academy tuition nearing $6,000, many cadets found it difficult to sustain themselves while attending the academy,” Coates said. “Although I continued to work throughout the program, I decided to reduce my hours and focus on my training. I would have struggled immensely if not for the support from LEEP. This scholarship allowed me to pursue my lifetime goal of becoming a police officer and still manage to sustain myself.”
Macksoud was impressed with Coates confidence, questions, and ability to challenge the information presented in class. “He would intelligently bring up a good rebuttal,” Macksoud said. “It was his overall demeanor … He carries himself well, he commanded respect as a cadet. He will have that presence when he shows up at the scene as a police officer.”
Coates was hired by New Baltimore Police as a part-time officer in February. His career plans include passing the Field Training Officer program and obtaining a full-time position with New Baltimore PD. He is also interested in working for the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“He was a very serious cadet,” Macksoud said. “When he spoke, he spoke seriously about everything. He has great leadership qualities. People listen to him.”
Coates, who received an Associates in Criminal Justice, became the class spokesperson, giving the speech at graduation. “I read his speech in advance and it was excellent,” Macksoud said. “It was a packed house and (audience members) were very complimentary.”
“He definitely stuck out. Sometimes (cadets) get lost in the shuffle. You always knew when he was there,” Macksoud said. “He carried himself very well.”