25-year-old Mercedes Ferguson is one of Asheville’s newest police officers, and a recent graduate of basic law enforcement training. But in another life, she was on a path to become a doctor. As a student on a pre-med track in South Florida, she observed over and over young patients coming through the emergency room, and she wanted to find another way to get involved and help prevent the situations that put them there in the first place.
“I decided I wanted to get to the point where I can interact with them before they do something,” she says. She changed course, graduating from Florida International University in Miami with a criminal justice degree and enlisting in the National Guard where she trained as a Military Police Specialist. After moving to Asheville with her family, she applied for a position at the Asheville Police Department and eventually became part of the cadet class that graduated in December.
As she becomes more and more familiar with Asheville, Ferguson looks forward to interacting with residents and getting to establish positive relationships.
“I don’t want people to feel like if the (patrol) car is there that there is trouble,” she says. “I want to wave and have them wave back.”
Ferguson’s story is one of many that illustrate the different backgrounds, accomplishments and motivations driving the APD’s most recent class of recruits. 15 cadets graduated from basic law enforcement training and moved into what will eventually constitute 16 weeks of field training under the observation of established APD officers.
Those 15 were drawn from a pool more than 200 applicants, says Sgt. Joe Sorrells in the APD Recruitment Division.
“You can see we do not have a problem recruiting,” Sorrells says. “And it means we can select women and men of exceptional caliber who can excel at displaying the qualities of professionalism and integrity the department depends on.” And interest does not seem to be slowing. In the latest recruitment drive, more than 400 applicants submitted applications for a total of seven positions.
Like Ferguson, 24-year-old Alexander Wall once considered medical school. The Asheville native graduated with a degree in biology from the Citadel in South Carolina before returning home to teach and coach. With friends already in the APD, he says he had an idea of what to expect from training, but he also looks forward to the positive impact he can play in the community. “I like solving problems, and this will let me do that every day,” he says.
A former quarterback for the AC Reynolds High Rockets who also played football for the Citadel Bulldogs, Wall says he has always been surrounded by the kind of close-knit groups that police cadet classes typically form.
“I’ve always been part of a team,” he says. “But I was still surprised how close we came together as a group. Having that kind of support really helps.”
22-year-old Maizul Cobeo got her start in the justice system while interning at the Greenville, NC Police Department’s Victims’ Advocate office while attending Eastern Carolina University as an English and Criminal Justice major. As she became more involved with the domestic violence cases the office addressed, she decided she wanted to be out front on the issue.
“I was more interested in responding and arresting perpetrators of domestic violence,” she says.
After graduating from ECU, Cobeo applied to several departments, eventually joining up with the APD. Like the other new officers, Cobeo will spend the coming months doing ride-alongs with officers to learn the ropes and engaging in field training before being assigned a district.
“Right now, I’m really interested in getting on patrol and responding to calls, and I’m excited about being able to work with the community,” she says.
The following are the cadets that graduated from BLET in December: