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From stage to street cop

UC Clermont Police Academy helps former actor find role of a lifetime

R.J. Bryant’s journey to becoming a police officer in Newtown, Ohio, was anything but typical. Though the 27-year-old Milford native always “toyed” with the idea of becoming a cop and two of his cousins were officers, Bryant initially followed a very different path after graduating from Northern Kentucky University with a communication bachelor’s degree in 2015.

Bryant had raced motocross for most of his life, but an accident left him with two broken wrists and the end of his racing career. He tried a few other jobs after graduation, but nothing called out to him to pursue as a career. On a whim, a friend encouraged him to audition for a local production of “Shrek: The Musical.” Bryant got the small background part, and he was hooked. Over the next year or so, he acted in a handful of movies, working with stars such as Bruce Willis and Colin Farrell. Bryant said he saw it all as part of an adventure.

“I’ve always tried to do as much as I can,” Bryant said. “I don’t like looking back and saying, ‘I wish I would have tried that.’”

Then, a conversation at a family party in 2017 helped Bryant find his next move. One of his police officer cousins invited him on a ride along.

“I fell in love with the job that day,” Bryant said. “Something about being in the car and readily available to help people inspired me to chase after that. And the fact that no two days are ever the same. It’s always something different.”

Bryant immediately began researching local police academies. He was quickly drawn to UC Clermont College. “I liked that I could earn college credit as a criminal justice major, and I’ve always loved the college atmosphere,” said Bryant, who was also able to use financial aid for the program.

His police academy education took about eight months; Bryant graduated in February 2018. He says the small class sizes enhanced his experience with personal attention.

“It was an intimate experience. We got to know each other and instructors really well,” Bryant said. “I was class president for my class, too, which gave me leadership experience and taught me to be more assertive, to take charge and figure things out. It didn’t feel like school work; the program involved a lot of hands-on activities. We would go outside and put classroom lessons to use.”

All of Bryant’s classmates were hired in less than three months from graduation. Bryant landed as a law enforcement officer with Newtown. He’s enjoyed his new career choice so far, saying that what initially drew him to the field — the opportunity to help people each day — continues to be his favorite part of the job.

“Even if it’s just helping someone change a tire,” Bryant said, “it’s nice to see that immediate effect when you’re instantly able to make someone feel better.”

And finally, he sees a career for the long term.

“I searched for the right path for a long time,” Bryant said. “Being a police officer is the first thing I can see myself doing for the next 30 years. If it’s something you’re thinking about, do it.”

Learn more about UC Clermont’s Police Academy.