'91 HPD cadet graduates reunite 20 years later

February 17, 2011 8:39:31 PM PST
We're getting to see the Houston Police Department in a way most have never seen before. Twenty years ago, we were there as Academy Class 141 trained and graduated. And we were there this week for their reunion.

Twenty years ago, the Houston Police Academy had just started churning out cadets again after an eight-year budget-imposed shutdown.

Eyewitness News was getting an inside look at how the academy turned young -- some really young -- cadets from kids into cops.

We were there the day cadet Angel Williams was shot with blanks at a mock traffic stop.

"You never forget it, you never forget it," said Williams, who's now an SPO.

And they haven't forgotten each other. Wednesday night Academy Class 141 got together to look back 20 years.

"I remember chasing him down," Glenn Gibbons said.

It's always interesting to see how time treats our friends. It has been 20 years for these officers.

"A little less, a little gray," Gibbons joked about his hair.

But it was also a reminder that theirs is a dangerous job. One of their classmates has been run over twice on the highway. Another survived a shooting. A third a got in a vicious fight with a suspect years ago. Another lost his partner to a suspect's bullet.

"It was one thing that hits you harder than you realize," Sgt. Tim Oxford said.

The focus of so many of our 20-year-old reports was Jason Leal.

"I've always wanted to be a police officer," Leal said.

Leal was getting cancer treatment Wednesday night. Doctors wouldn't allow him to attend the reunion.

But this was also a chance to talk about where they want to see the department go in the next 20 years, especially with the controversial Chad Holley videotape still fresh in everyone's mind.

"It also hurts us as good Houston police officers here in the city," Williams said.

But Williams told us her wish to avoid more problems is for a department that looks more like Houston does. It's one of the reasons she joined 20 years ago and one of the reasons she's wants people who look like her to follow her 20-year-old footsteps.

"No there isn't. In fact, I'm always recruiting," she said.

For police officers, 20 years is a magic number. Every one of them could retire tomorrow with a police pension, but none of them are. Twenty-seven of the 34 graduates are still police officers and plan on another decade of service.