60-year-old police cadet strives to reach goals

Monday, December 16, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- At 60, Michael Beach does everything his fellow cadets at the police academy do, from the grueling physical training to the role-playing exercises that test his street smarts.

He has earned praise from his teachers and respect from the other students. Now all he needs is a job.

Three days a week for five months this year, Michael Beach and the recruits at the St. Louis County and Municipal Police Academy pushed their bodies to extremes -- grueling sessions of push-ups, pull-ups, sprints and weightlifting, followed by a 20-minute run around the track.

Academy administrators have monitored Beach's progress with particular interest. But his performance impressed his instructors and his classmates.

"He never quit once," said Sgt. Timothy Hagerty, the basic training supervisor. "Not everyone in this class can say that."

At 60, Beach and his white hair and wrinkled face stand out among the 20- and 30-something men and women in the class. He's old enough to be father, even grandfather to many in the class.

But in other ways, Beach, of Manchester, fits right in with his peers. Ask him why he wants to be a policeman, and his answer mirrors the rest of his class: He wants to serve his community.

'They will not regret it'

But before Beach can start busting bad guys, he will have to find a police department that will give him the chance, and unlike most of his 22 classmates, he did not have an assured job as an officer when he completed his training last week.

"If someone hires me, I guarantee they will not regret it," he said. "I know I'll be a good police officer."

Hagerty said Beach has a lot to offer a department.

"Although he might be older, he has the life experience that is going to give him an edge that some young officers don't have," he said.

Beach first heard the call to service after he finished high school in the small west Texas town of Anson. His father, uncles and cousins had all joined the military when he was growing up. So, shortly after high school, he did too.

The Air Force trained Beach in several fields, including computer systems, logistics and airport security.

Beach moved his family 17 times in 20 years of service while he worked to the rank of captain. He was twice stationed at Scott Air Force base.

His wife, Patricia, a part-time teacher, and their four daughters always thought of the St. Louis area as home, he said.

So when Beach retired in 1980, he looked for a job here.

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