ALTON - The Alton Police Department has welcomed a new officer to their force.

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Tawny Yarbrough is preparing to enter the Illinois State Police Academy, where she will train for four months before returning to Alton to begin her career as an officer with APD. Yarbrough said she is excited to become a police officer and help people both on and off duty.

“I’ve been wanting to be a cop for a very long time, pretty much almost my entire life, just to make a difference and make changes and be able to help people,” Yarbrough said. “I’ve got goals of my own that are outside of being a cop to help, as well. So it’s a big thing for me to help, because as I grew up, I saw stuff and I’ve dealt with stuff. I want to be that person that could change that and maybe stop it from ever happening.”

Yarbrough grew up in Alton and served in the Navy. She received an associate degree in medical assisting with a license in phlebotomy, then completed a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. She is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity.

In addition to her plans to become a police officer, Yarbrough has been working with her mother to start a new organization that would provide free treatment to people who struggle with substance use. She also hopes to open a shelter for unhoused community members and animals, and she wants to build an organization that would help people attend college.

“We’re working on it. Hopefully by next year, we’ll have something running or in the process of running,” Yarbrough explained. “There are a lot of kids that I’ve spoken to and adults that I’ve spoken to who don’t have high school diplomas or can’t even go to college because they can’t afford it and they can’t get the assistance for it. I personally had the opportunity to be able to have my college paid for, and I want to do that for other people.”

Yarbrough’s passion stood out to APD Chief Jarrett Ford. He said that the job isn’t for everyone, and he can usually tell early on if someone will decide to stick with it. Already, he has been impressed by Yarbrough’s commitment and her eagerness to help others.

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“That’s what it’s all about, just finding the best people that have a passion to do this and want to do it and that are just good people. I don't really want to work with people that aren’t,” Ford said. “I try to build a team of good people that care and want to do a good job and want to be here and help out.”

He joked that Yarbrough is “as fresh as it gets,” but she has already been undergoing the hiring process for several months. All police candidates must apply online and then complete a power test, which assesses physical strength and stamina through a mile-and-a-half run and sit-and-reach, sit-ups and push-ups tests. They then take a written exam and undergo an interview with Alton’s Civil Service Commission.

Meanwhile, APD completes an “intensive” background check, Ford explained, with information about dating partners, friends, family and neighbors. If the background check goes well, candidates must then go through a physical and a psychological examination. Officers are only hired if they pass all of the benchmarks.

After the hiring process, which usually takes a little over four months, new officers like Yarbrough will attend the police academy for 16 weeks. They then return to APD to shadow officers and complete on-the-job training, which takes another four months.

“I like to spell that out because so many people just don’t know, and I wouldn’t expect them to know,” Ford added. “It is indeed a process and it’s intensive, and to me, I feel like it’s extremely thorough, and I’m a big fan of that. I think that gets you the most quality candidates that you can find through that process. So even though it’s a long one, it’s worth it.”

Ford noted that he helps teach a criminal justice class at Alton High School, where he tries to schedule ride-alongs for as many students as possible. He thinks this helps people decide whether or not they will enjoy being a police officer, and it is a good sign that Yarbrough has loved her time at APD so far. APD will be eagerly awaiting her return from the police academy in September.

“I’ve only been here for three weeks, but everyone here is very open and friendly and answers all the questions, even though I have a million of them,” Yarbrough laughed. “I just like riding along and seeing everything that they do. I love it. I never want to leave.”

The Alton Police Department has several candidates currently undergoing the hiring process, but they are looking for more police officers to join the force. For more information, visit

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