Washington County, MD – A Maryland State Police (MSP) trooper candidate diagnosed with cerebral palsy will graduate from the state police academy on Friday.
When 21-year-old Trooper Derek Harper crosses the stage, his father, 28-year MSP veteran Sergeant David Harper, will be waiting to pin a gold badge on his chest, making him a third-generation trooper, WJZ reported.
“I’ll be thinking ‘That’s my little boy, who I had to carry around because he couldn’t walk too far,’” Sgt. Harper said, imagining the moment. “Now, look how far he’s come.”
Trooper Harper was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of three, and underwent years of treatment, braces and surgeries to his legs to help his balance.
Growing up, his parents wanted him to have the same opportunities as his peers, and never held him back from experiencing new things.
In addition to playing soccer, T-ball, and running cross-country, Trooper Harper joined Cub Scouts, participated in the Civil Air Patrol, and attended a law enforcement-centered boot camp in Pennsylvania.
“Sgt. Harper said he never once told Derek he wanted him to become a Maryland state trooper,” the MSP told WJZ. “He said his son first indicated he might want to follow in his father and grandfather’s career choice when he was in middle school.”
After he graduated from high school in 2016, he tackled the MSP’s fitness test, and was soon hired by the agency as a cadet.
He was assigned to the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division New Market scale house, where he conquered every physical test required.
In September of 2018, Trooper Harper joined MSP Academy Class 148.
“He has endured the rigors of a six-month residential police training academy that is known as one of the toughest in the country,” the MSP said. “He enrolled in the concurrent degree program with Frederick Community College and will complete his Associate of Arts degree in criminal justice soon after graduating from the Academy.”
“He has endured the mental, physical and emotional challenges this intense training has presented him with,” the agency continued. “He has overcome each one.”