Oakland Police Academy grad earns LEEP Award, hired as Deputy
— By Jennifer Gomori, POJ Editor
Thomas McClure has no previous law enforcement experience, but his proven abilities at Oakland Police Academy earned him a $2,000 Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP) Award and a full-time Deputy job immediately after graduation.
“He worked very hard in the academy and was well-liked by his peers,” said Oakland Police Academy Director David Ceci.
McClure was one of 36 pre-service cadets to graduate the Oakland Community College (OCC) academy Dec. 15, 2017 out of a class of 51. Pre-service cadets must pay their own way through the academy.
When McClure began academy training, he was working as a bartender at California Pizza Kitchen in Farmington Hills. “The first few weeks I was working on weekends because I wasn’t sponsored,” he said. “But I decided to quit that job and (focus on) the academy full-time because it was really exhausting mentally and physically. It’s tough. I said, ‘I’ve got to stop and keep the weekends (for myself) to get some sleep and study up on material for the academy.’”
McClure was thankful he could live with his parents to save money, but still had to pay tuition, gas, car insurance and maintenance among other expenses. “I could not have done this without their support,” McClure said of his parents. “These people that are doing the academy pre-sponsored, that’s great for them. Not having that luxury, it’s a lot harder.”
The $2,000 LEEP Award was a much-needed surprise. “I almost cried. I had no idea — it was a shock,” he said after he was presented the LEEP Award at graduation. “It means a ton to me — everything I worked for going into the academy, having to pay for myself. It’s a great feeling being recognized for the hard work of going to the academy without being sponsored.”
“It was real emotional,” McClure said of the honor. “I couldn’t thank Director Ceci enough for everything that they did for me at the academy.”
McClure graduated earlier from OCC with a degree in General Studies and transferred to University of Michigan Dearborn to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. He completed one semester in 2016, but when he found out he could get his police academy training with his associate’s degree, he decided to finish the bachelor’s degree later. “I just felt it was better for me. I could start my career now and go back and finish (my degree),” McClure said.
His choice seems to have paid off. The 22-year-old began classroom training for his Deputy position with Monroe County Sheriff’s Office in January and was scheduled to begin road training with another Deputy Jan. 25.
“I couldn’t be more excited to get started on my career with Monroe County Sheriff’s Office,” McClure said. “I will take (Criminal Justice) courses after I finish my training program and really dedicate myself to the career I’ve started.”
Staff and cadets alike were impressed with McClure, who has a good demeanor. “He’s a kind, gentle soul, but he’s very firm,” Ceci said. “When he was demonstrating police skills he was always very respectful.”
“There were some people that excelled academically,” however, Ceci said, “This guy just is overall well-rounded in all aspects. We have the students do a ranking of each other and we used that as part of our metric plus his academics plus his performance hands on. He was at a high level at both of those consistently. Very few recruits demonstrated this level of consistency.”
Ceci said McClure likes to help others and enjoys variety in his work, two attributes which make him a great fit for police work. While McClure doesn’t come from a family of law enforcement, his dad, Dennis McClure, shared his passion for police work with his son. “My dad was telling me when he was growing up he wanted to be a police officer. He grew up wanting to do it – he went on ride alongs with departments,” Thomas McClure said. “He couldn’t fulfill that. I wanted to make sure I was able to myself. Taking criminal justice classes got me even more interested.”