By DAVE GORGON
One of the newest Michigan State Troopers in Monroe County is Cole Martin, a Riverview native who was inspired to join the state law-enforcement agency by people in his hometown.
Martin followed in the footsteps of Trooper Jesse Graffagnino, a long-time friend and fellow Riverview native. Both were sponsored by the Riverview Kiwanis Club to attend the Michigan District of Kiwanis Law Enforcement Career Academy and the American Legion Student Trooper Academy.
And now both are living their dreams in the Michigan State Police.
“It’s always been a goal of mine to get into law enforcement and I went through the Kiwanis Youth Academy with Trooper Graffagnino,” Martin said. “I knew him growing up in Riverview. He got me involved in the Kiwanis program and helped me throughout the way.”
Riverview Mayor Andrew Swift, a member of the Kiwanis Club, said that each year the club recruits sophomores, juniors and seniors from Riverview Community High School to attend the intensive weeklong academy. Out of the applications, the Kiwanis Board of Directors selects up to two students to attend. Martin was one of those selected.
The Kiwanis academy, held at the State Police Academy in Lansing, provides students with the experience of knowing what it takes to become a state trooper, including traffic and criminal law, defensive tactics, firearms and marksmanship fundamentals, first aid, water safety, narcotic search and seizure, patrol tactics, crash investigations, law-enforcement career opportunities, forensic science, conservation law, underwater recovery and character issues of leadership. All in one week.
“It was tough,” Martin said. “It was one of the hardest programs of my life.”
He said the academy, which he attended in 2017 – the year of his high school graduation – gave attendees a clear vision of what it would be like to train to be a state trooper, including a “military mindset.”
“I knew it was going to be really hard,” Martin said. “That was one of the reasons I wanted to do it. I wanted to challenge myself.”
Martin, 22, said the actual 26-week Michigan State Trooper Academy impressed upon him the importance of always doing “what’s right, to do your best and to treat other people how you want to be treated.” He said he especially remembers classes on defensive tactics, first aid and law, saying the instructors and real-life scenarios were extremely helpful.
Challenges included being away from family members, including parents Maggie and Lee and younger sister Cari; shaving his head every week; keeping up with the physicality required; dealing with morning inspections; and learning to use his time wisely to study for exams.
“My family provided great support,” Martin said. “I couldn’t have done it without them. Mom would do my laundry every week and make dinners on Saturday. You have to report back to the academy on Sundays.”
The academy concluded with Martin’s virtual graduation in March. As a Monroe County corrections officer at the county jail, he selected Monroe County as his first choice as his Michigan State Police post. He said the assignment would provide him more investigative opportunities all the way to Lenawee County and is close to home.
“The Kiwanis of Riverview are very proud of Cole and his focus of becoming a Michigan State Trooper,” Mayor Swift said. “Over the years, the Kiwanis have sponsored dozens of students to attend the Kiwanis Michigan State Trooper Academy, but only two have gone on to become state troopers.”
The other trooper, Graffagnino, is based at the Metro South Post in Taylor. As someone four years older than Martin, Graffagnino said he knew his friend had what it took to join the State Police ranks. They were neighbors in the same Riverview subdivision and Graffagnino was friends with Martin’s step brother Adam Ritche.
“I’ve known Cole since we were little kids,” Graffagnino said. “Our families have been close. Essentially, Cole has been like a little brother to me. I looked after him.”
“It was one of the best feelings knowing you accomplished the hardest training academy in the United States,” he said. “I’m loving the job.”