For police officer, one of the most memorable days of their career is the one where they walk across the stage at the police academy and are officially recognized as a graduate and a certified police officer. It was a day Webster County Deputy Nathan Stinchcomb had looked forward to.

But in the age of the Coronavirus, nothing goes as intended.

Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training (DOCJT) class 510, which consisted of 33 students, officially completed their 800 hours of training and were recognized on Thursday, March 26, without all the normal pomp and circumstance that normally surround such events.

There were no fellow officers in the crowd to cheer them on. No loving family members. Just 33 classmates in the same classroom where they had spent the last several months of their lives, their desks all pushed six feet apart.

Each graduate got called to the front of the room one at a time to receive their awards and certification.

“It was bittersweet,” said Stinchcomb. “I’ve been looking forward to this since starting the academy in October. But my family didn’t get to watch me graduate. At least they let us graduate. They sent everyone else home but our class and one communications class, which graduated Wednesday.”

He said that his class finished the 20 week program in 19 weeks, which meant a lot of early mornings and late evenings trying to cram an extra week of classes into the schedule.

Not only did this class miss out on the normal graduation activities, they also missed out on some of the normal academy events such as their last supper, where class members go out to eat with their families.

“We couldn’t go out at all, because the only things open were all drive through,” Stinchcomb said. “So we were all isolated in our own room for the last week or so.”

He was handed his certificate and made the drive home, expecting to find his wife and kids waiting to take some photos. But Stinchcomb’s brothers in blue weren’t about to let his special day go unnoticed. When he returned home from Richmond on Thursday, his front yard looked like an active crime scene, filled with cruisers and vehicles from at least three local departments.

“It was amazing,” he said. “I was shocked. It really made the situation a lot better.”

Stinchcomb joined the Webster County Sheriff’s Department in May. Before that he had spent the last several years working in pest control. He also spent five or six years working in the electrical field at Hendrix Electric/ T&D Solutions.

Although he is not a Webster County native, he has called the county home since 1997. After attending Dixon Elementary, he graduated from WCHS in 2007, before going on to earn a degree in Criminal Justice.

“I finally decided, at 30, it was time to stop putting it on hold and pursue my career in law enforcement,” he said.

Contact Matt Hughes at matt@journalenterprise.com or 270-667-2069