Posted by: Jennifer Foley Posted date: July 30, 2015
— By Jennifer Foley, POJ Editor
At 44-years-old Matthew McPhillips is not your typical Macomb Police Academy graduate, but the church pastor’s drive to become a law enforcement officer was inspiring to his fellow cadets and staff alike, earning him the honor of a $1,000 Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP) Award.
“He was incredibly highly respected by his fellow cadets and also by the staff here. He received a part-time job before he graduated,” said Charles Craft, Director of Macomb Police Academy. “He’s looking to get into full-time law enforcement work and I think he would be an asset to any department based on his level of maturity. He just has a great perspective on life and incredible people skills.”
The Senior Pastor at Grace Life Baptist Church in Clyde, Michigan was hired by Yale Police Department before his graduation in May 2015. POLC Labor Rep. Frank Klik presented the LEEP Award to McPhillips. The LEEP Award is given twice yearly to graduates with the highest overall achievement who have not been sponsored by any police agency. To qualify, the cadets had to pass the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) certification test and meet MCOLES employment standards to become certifiable as law enforcement officers in Michigan.
“His church supported him in his pursuits and he’s continuing to serve the church and working part-time as a police officer,” Craft said. “But after he was in the academy a while, he thought he would do better if he was full-time law enforcement.”
The transition may seem awkward at best to most, but McPhillips has been waiting and preparing himself for this day. He served in Desert Storm as a member of the U.S. Army, 82nd Airborne Division, stationed in Germany, and he worked as a dispatcher for Port Huron Police Department from 1998-2000.
“Through some friendships, he became interested in law enforcement, went to St. Clair Community College and got an associates’ degree in Criminal Justice,” Craft said. “It took a period of years to get that degree.”
“When I got out of the military in 1996, my original plan was to go into law enforcement. I love law enforcement,” McPhillips said. “It seems natural to do. It doesn’t feel like a job. The academy wasn’t even really hard.”
McPhillips got married and three children later; he became involved in Grace Life Baptist Church in 2002. “I was working with teenagers at our church and we had some issues take place with leadership and that’s when I stepped in full time to help with that transition,” he said.
McPhillips earned his degree in theology in 2005. “I didn’t plan on being a minister this long,” he said. “I thought I’d do this for a few years, save money for the academy. Next thing I know here I am 12 years later. The church still wants me to stay as Senior Pastor in charge of teaching,” which he said is a possibility.
He has participated in a lot of civic events, running the church food pantry, volunteering to clean up an old cemetery in St. Clair County, and serving as a juvenile probation mentor.
McPhillips related well with the other police academy cadets, who looked up to him as a leader, Craft said. Academically he was above average in every skill including firearms, driving and first aid. He was even under consideration for the MCOLES Outstanding Performance Award.
“He did a fabulous job. He’s a very disciplined, mature individual,” Craft said. “The most impressive thing was his day-to-day conduct in the academy. He embraced the training. People gravitated towards him and he became an informal leader.”
McPhillips was the class speaker at graduation and is a tri-athlete planning to compete in the Ironman Competition in October in Maryland.
“He’s incredibly physically fit,” Craft said. “He was in a training program for this Ironman Competition, going to that at night after academy. He’s a unique cadet to say the least.”
“He’s really grasped how to balance the concept of huge debate in law enforcement, ‘Are we warriors or guardians? Our position is we are both.’ He knows how to be very tactically sound but yet he understands how to deal with people,” Craft said. “He’s very intuitive about the job. Maturity certainly helps sometimes. I think the agency going to hire him will get a great influence on the other officers and he will represent the officers well in the community.”