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Class Captain Sarah Porter and Bryant De La Campa participated in realistic field training during Basic Law Enforcement (BLE) Academy #78 . 

The doors to the new College of Florida Keys (CFK) Upper Keys Campus in Key Largo opened in August 2021, yet the members of the Basic Law Enforcement (BLE) Academy #78 were well into their 770-hour training rogram at that stage. Having moved between different locations as the facility was being completed, they were able to take the latter part of the program at the Upper Keys Campus and on October 8, 2021, they celebrated graduation.

Three were sworn-in as Monroe County Sheriff’s Office deputies by Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay and all are eligible to become Florida Law Enforcement Officers once they complete state certification examination.

Of the five who received special recognition, two were among those who came into the program from previous careers and varied educational backgrounds.

Class Captain Sarah Porter, who earned leadership and academic achievement awards, spent four years in the U.S. Army Military Police, to include a tour in Iraq.

In returning to her native Vermont, she spent some time with her family who have always worked in the maple syrup business.

Despite having an undergraduate degree in Psychology and a Masters in Education, law enforcement held a special appeal. She’d previously vacationed in the Keys and the winters were definitely better. She made the decision to move and entered BLE Academy #78 in January 2021 where she met mentors and made friends.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better class,” she said. In April, she also joined the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department as a reserve officer; her work providing an additional dimension to the training.

Between that and her Army service, the biggest challenge she faced was juggling her time. The classes are held at night and having some degree of a homelife is important.

“The pepper spray drill was no fun,” she added, a view held by anyone who’sbeen through it. Her advice to others is straightforward. “Stick it out and set goals for yourself. It is challenging, but focus on what you’re learning and take advice from the instructors. They are working professionals. They’re all police officers or detectives; that was one of the things I liked best.”

Accolades of her performance have not been limited to class though. She was recently selected as Reserve Officer of the Quarter and will be officially presented with the award November 5th in Marathon.

Bryant De La Campa, who was Porter’s First Lieutenant in class was recipient of the “PIG” award, which recognizes pride, integrity, and guts. His former path was not only Emergency Medical Service for over ten years; he and his wife were applying to medical school when COVID-19 closures brought things to a halt. That coincided with his wife’s pregnancy with their first child.

His duties in the Emergency Department of Homestead Hospital brought him face-to-face with the burden placed onto hospital staff. He felt a shift, however.

“As much as I love medicine my heart was drifting away. I missed the adrenaline of being a first responder. I want to be the first person you see when it comes to a crisis or a simple intervention.

I know my experience has given me the skills and knowledge to be that reassurance in any situation. So I started to look into how I could be that bridge between first responders and the community. With all the bad media surrounding law enforcement I wanted to be part of that change.”

In learning he was accepted into the BLE Academy he also took on full time work at Key Largo Advance Urgent Care. He, too, managed to balance his multiple obligations and even though the physical aspects were demanding, he found the legal aspect to be particularly challenging.

“Everything is put under a microscope and can be held liable for any little mistake, and I took that as a challenge to outsmart criminals.”

As with Porter, he was able to pass the state certification quickly and is in the process of being hired by the Coconut Creek Police Department. He knows this is not a career for everyone.

“It is never too late, even if you are on the fence, it is a rewarding experience. The sacrifices and strain on friends, family and yourself pays off. Every day is an interview and the law enforcement community is as small as the medical one. Someone somehow knows who you are, therefore carry yourself with pride and integrity.”

The three other awardees of BLE Academy #78 were Mercedes Guevara and Jose Salto for Physical Fitness and Samuel Villegas for superior shooting skills.

For information about CFK’s Institute for Public Safety, visit https://www.cfk.edu/academics/academic-departments/institute-for-public-safety/.

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