By Jennifer Gomori, POJ Editor
Darla Afrin achieved the highest overall score for non-sponsored recruits at Law Enforcement Regional Training Academy (LERTA) despite working weekends, raising four elementary-age children and completing her degree, earning her the Collin Birnie Scholarship Award.
“I wanted to cry. It made me feel so good. To receive that award in front of my children was amazing,” Afrin said. “I will never forget that experience. It made me realize all the hard work and dedication to being the best I can be was worth it.”
Afrin, 37, received a 94.13 percent GPA, excelling in academics as well as physical testing at LERTA. The Collin Birnie Scholarship Award is given twice yearly at the discretion of the college police academy to graduates who have not been sponsored by any police agency. To qualify for the $500 Award, which is sponsored by the Police Officers Labor Council (POLC), cadets must pass the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) certification test and meet MCOLES employment standards to become certified Michigan Law Enforcement Officers.
“The POLC also gave me a Collin Birnie Challenge Coin,” she said. “It’s beautiful – I love it. I was so excited to get that.”
Afrin was one of six pre-service cadets in a graduating class of 22 from LERTA on May 4, 2023. The remaining 16 cadets were sponsored by law enforcement agencies through MCOLES grants for training and hiring. “They are with police agencies, but MCOLES actually paid for the academy,” said Kitty Severance, LERTA Staff Assistant.
Afrin, who also received the $300 Donald E. Ewles Criminal Justice Scholarship Endowment, graduated Mott Community College on May 6 with a Criminal Justice associate’s degree. “I’ve never had a better experience at a school in my life,” Afrin said. “I’m graduating Mott with a 4.0. I worked very, very hard.”
She’s applying for law enforcement jobs in high crime areas. “I’m older and I have really good communication skills. I understand a lot of diverse groups and people that don’t have a lot of money in areas with higher crimes have always interested me,” she said.
Growing up in a family that struggled financially, Afrin pushed through a lot of obstacles to complete the academy. “I have four small children and I had to take extra classes to join the academy,” she said. “It was a struggle, but I got through it with the help of my ex-husband and my family. I wouldn’t be able to do it without them. I had to work every weekend (while) I was going to the academy.”
Afrin has worked as an East Point Police Service Aide for the past year. “It’s opened my eyes to a lot of things in law enforcement. It’s really what made me want to become a police officer,” she said. “My ex-husband is a police officer as well. I just loved his stories and I wanted to be in his position. I realized I needed to go back to school for myself and show my kids you can do it.”