LERTA grad got timing right for police work
— By Jennifer Gomori, POJ Editor
LEEP Award winner Eric Abbey always wanted to be a law enforcement officer, but it seemed like his timing was off in the late 1990s. Communities at that time weren’t hiring too many police officers.
Abbey, 47, delayed his dream, finding other work as he pursued two Criminal Justice degrees while raising a family. He graduated Law Enforcement Regional Training Academy May 3 and got the timing right this time. He began working as a full-time Montrose Township Police Officer May 7.
Abbey served in the U.S. Marine Corps beginning in 1990-98 where he attained the rank of Sergeant (meritoriously). He followed in the footsteps of his older brother, Mike Abbey, who also served in the Marines. “You always look up to your older siblings and when I saw him come home wearing his uniform and the way he carried himself … it absolutely inspired me to become a Marine. I consider it a privilege to have served my country, and will continue to serve through police work as long as the good Lord allows me to,” Abbey said.
He is proud of his work with the Toys for Tots program as Assistant Coordinator with his Marine unit. “We were in charge of the southwestern district of Michigan, where we collected and disbursed thousands of toys to children. It’s very rewarding to see smiles on the faces of those kids,” he said. “I enjoyed helping people. It was a very humbling experience and one I would do again if called upon. It’s the best feeling in the world to be able to help someone in need.”
After leaving the Marine Corps, Abbey worked construction for a while, then joined the U.S. Postal Service where he was employed for seven years. During this time, he also became a Reserve Officer with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office.
“I realized something was still missing and decided to pursue my dream of working in law enforcement on a greater scale,” Abbey said. “I went back to school in 2010 in hopes of getting my degree in Criminal Justice. I wanted to do it earlier on, but there was just no (law enforcement) hiring going on at the time.”
He obtained his associates degree in Criminal Justice from ITT Technical Institute and finished his bachelor’s degree at Ferris State University in December 2017. “Now there’s a lot of job opportunities with a lot of people retiring,” he said. “I figured it was a good chance for me to pounce on a lifelong dream.”
Abbey made an impression among his peers and instructors earning him the $2,000 Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP) Award and other honors. “He’s getting three awards,” said Kitty Severance, LERTA Staff Assistant. “He’s also getting the MCOLES award, which is for Outstanding Performance and High Scholastic Award from LERTA.”
The MCOLES Award is non-monetary and based on leadership, appearance, and knowledge. “It’s voted on by your peers and instructors as well. I received the academic achievement award … from the academy for finishing number one with a 96.3 average,” Abbey said.
Abbey was one of 19 graduates, eight of which were sponsored, and 11, who like Abbey, were non-sponsored. The LEEP Award is given twice yearly to police academy graduates with the highest overall achievement, who are not sponsored by any police agency. “It’s going to help out quite a bit. You can’t work during the program,” Abbey said, referring to the rigorous training schedule at the academy. “I didn’t even expect (the LEEP Award) or know it existed until the day of graduation, so it came as a bit of a shock to me.”
A father of three grown children, Abbey’s oldest son is in public safety like his dad, having served in the Marine Corps and now working as a Carson City Corrections Officer. His two other children are also pursuing service-orientated careers. His younger son is in the U.S. Air Force and his daughter is working on a nursing degree at University of Michigan.
“I’m sure I couldn’t have done this without the great support of my family,” Abbey said. “My wife, Vicki, picked up a lot of extra work so I could attend the academy.”
Abbey said he would ultimately like to educate upcoming officers either at a police academy or community college. “A lot of my instructors earned their master’s degrees while serving as Police Officers. I gained a lot of knowledge from them,” Abbey said. “I look forward to someday being able to give that back. I always knew I wanted to finish my master’s in Criminal Justice. I have not started a program, but I fully intend to once I get established in my job here.”