Academy graduates get ceremony delayed by winter storms

Ken Watts | 5/2/2014, 6:08 a.m.
The 19 new DeKalb officers were originally scheduled to graduate on Feb. 14. Their ceremony was held on April 25. Photo by Ken Watts

DeKalb’s 97th Police Academy class stood proudly before their families and veteran colleagues at their graduation ceremony in Decatur on April 25, ready to serve and protect.

But this class is different - they’ve been on the job for three months. The 19 new officers were originally scheduled to graduate on Feb. 14, interim Chief James Conroy said.

“That was the week of our second ice storm of the year, so we were forced to activate them early,” explained Conroy, who spoke at the graduation in the Porter Sanford III Performing Arts Center. “Since they had completed all the state-mandated training, we put them out as security in warming centers and shelters for the citizens. On graduation day, the roads were still a little icy so we didn’t want to endanger the lives of their families and loved ones so we just did a badge presentation at the academy.”

The grads survived 26 weeks of rigorous cadet training, including instruction in state and federal law, county ordinances, patrol techniques and arrest procedures. The officers also underwent eight weeks of field training with veteran officers.

Their full graduation ceremony included remarks from Conroy and Deputy Chief Operating Officer Cedric Alexander and interim DeKalb CEO Lee May and awards to several officers for meritorious services.

“You have the support of this entire police staff. Our job is to serve you. You’re not here to serve us. You’re here to serve the community,” Alexander said.

May said despite DeKalb’s turbulent recent history and continuing challenges, the public expects the new officers to maintain focus on their mission.

“You will have to stay strong and stay grounded in the work that you have been called to do,” May said.

Twelve veteran officers received departmental awards, including Sgt. Nicole Hines and Detective J.C. Hobbs, who were wounded in the line of duty in separate incidents. Hines was hit in the ankle by friendly fire on Feb. 7 while responding to a burglary call at Salem Road and Cape Cod Lane in Lithonia. Hobbs was wounded in the leg in 2013 while serving a warrant with U.S. marshals. Both received the Meritorious Service Award.

Conroy urged the graduates to look to positive role models for inspiration and strive for honesty and integrity.

“If it’s not right, do not do it. If it’s not true, do not say it,” he said.

The grads said their brief exposure to actual duty has given them a better appreciation for advice from their elders and helped their confidence.

“Now that we’ve been out on the road, we have a real good feel for what the job is and that’s a rewarding feeling at the end of the day,” said Officer Adrian Lancaster.

“We know what they’re talking about and where they’re coming from, especially after seeing the awards ceremony,” said Wayne Akins, who won the firearms award for having the highest average shooting score in the class.