MARIETTA, OHIO—When it comes to law enforcement, you want someone with a never-give-up-attitude and that’s exactly how you would describe Dakota Walters. The Washington State Community College (WSCC) Student of the Month always wanted to protect and serve, but realized that he would have to be tenacious if he was going to realize his dream.
Enrollment in WSCC’s Peace Officer Basic Academy (POBA) is the first step in becoming a law enforcement officer. Acceptance into the academy hinges on successfully passing a state-mandated physical assessment that includes timed sit-ups, push-ups, and a 1.5-mile run. POBA Commander Joseph Browning explained that the exam is often the stopping point for many would-be cadets. “Just getting admitted into the POBA program in Ohio is challenging for students. The assessment is a really tough entrance exam,” explained Browning. “Then after they’re admitted and successfully complete the academic portion of the academy, they must pass an even stricter physical assessment in order to graduate,” he continued.
Aspiring cadets only have a handful of opportunities to pass the physical assessment for acceptance into the academy. The initial assessment proved to be challenging for Walters, but he did not accept defeat. Browning said this is what set him apart from other potential cadets. “He refused to give up. He came to every physical fitness test, but would miss passing it by just a few sit-ups each time.” Walters’ tenacity was rewarded when he met the state benchmark on the final test before the academy started. “This is a testament to Dakota’s drive and willpower to achieve his goal,” credited Browning.
Walters said he persevered because he’s known since he was a teenager that his purpose in life was to help people. “Everyone has their thing that they’re supposed to do and I feel like mine is keeping everyone safe and alive. As I’ve gotten older and acquired more skills and abilities, I always lean toward that kind of thing. I’ve always seen myself as a protector,” he explained. In simple terms, he described it as his calling.
Before deciding on law enforcement, Walters also considered enlisting in the military as both career options provided opportunity to satisfy his need to protect others. He credits his decision to pursue law enforcement, in part, to Ed Lowe, a friend and former employer who is not only a Noble County sheriff’s deputy but also a WSCC POBA graduate. Walters also drew from his experience as a part-time dispatcher for the Noble County sheriff’s department and said “it gave me a view of what happens on the back end.”
Keenly aware of the effort it took for entrance into the academy and that graduation requires an even tougher physical assessment test, Walters made a personal commitment to spend time at the gym as part of his training. This has proven to be a challenge as the 25-year-old maintains a demanding work schedule. “Finding time to sleep between working at my three part-time jobs, school, and going to the gym has been a daily challenge. Luckily it has sharpened my napping skills,” he laughed.
“Working in law enforcement takes grit and determination,” said Browning. “That’s something Dakota has displayed in abundance from the first time I met him. He’s going to be a great law enforcement officer.”
In May, after completing the academy, Walters will be awarded his POBA certificate, then in the spring of 2023, he will earn his associate degree in criminal justice.
For more information about WSCC’s Peace Officer Basic Academy, or any of its other law and public safety programs, such as the Private Security Academy, or Criminal Justice program, contact Commander Joe Browning at 740.885-5645 or visit wscc.edu/public-safety/.