Good evening. Thank you Academy Director May, members of the MPTC, academy staff, as well as soon to be Officer Timmerman for extending me this invitation. It’s an honor to be asked to speak at your graduation. This is my first opportunity to address a group of police officers as a retired police sergeant now, so I am truly humbled.
I know you have worked hard since you arrived at Camp Curtis Guild last September, and you are now ready to finally hit the street. There are many things you have learned during the academy; tools that will help you succeed as a police officer. You learned about teamwork, perseverance and physical fitness, and earned these badges you are about to pin on. I’m going to share with you some words of advice and encouragement now, and show you how your academy experiences have prepared you for the years ahead.
On day one of the academy you were all strangers, but only accomplished the milestone of graduation through teamwork. I remember my first week back in 2010. I know I’ve told you before about my own rocky start. We were completely disorganized, and acted acted like individuals. It took time and discipline to become one class and one team. Think back a few months and just how far you have come. You’ve arrived at this day by pushing each other in your runs, studying together and overcoming challenges. You’ve formed friendships and bonds that will last a lifetime. One of my academy classmates is here tonight, and he was one of the first people to get to the hospital when I was wounded. He came there to support me, my family, and my fellow officers in our time of need. This is the bond you have formed with your fellow classmates.
Once that badge is pinned on, you become part of an even larger team. You’ll be the junior guy on your department with lot to learn and a lot to lend. You will need to be a team player, whether it be to help solve a crime or problem in the community, or even to swap a shift to help a fellow officer out in a pinch. At the end of the day you’ll get the same satisfaction as in the academy, especially when you work together to help someone when they need it the most.
Next, you’ve had the opportunity to get into good shape and become physically fit while you were here. I know some days the early morning PT sessions can be rough, especially if you are a late riser like myself. By now, it has become a routine, a part of your life. Do not stop exercising when you leave the academy.
In 2015, nearly one in five line of duty deaths was due to heart attacks. A healthy diet and exercise are some of the best ways you can prevent that from happening. The last thing we want to see is a death or injury that could be preventable. I can tell you from personal experience that my exercise regimen contributed to my recovery and survival. Even when I was working over 60 hours a week, I still took time to exercise almost daily and still make time for my family. There is little doubt that I could have endured 40 minutes of CPR and a near fatal injury if it weren’t for a healthy lifestyle, something etched upon each one of us at the academy.
Now, I need to recognize the importance of our families. I salute each and every one of you in the audience tonight. Your families made sacrifices during your time at the academy, and will in the future as well. They put up with your early wake ups, evening sessions and other demands —and they supported you the whole way. They’re still with you today because they play an especially important role in the life of a police officer. Starting today, your life is going to change and so is theirs. They will make sacrifices to pick up the slack when you have to work late, when you have to miss holidays, and when tragedy strikes.
Later tonight, take the time to thank them for helping you make it to this special occasion. Things will be stressful you all during your career. Always make the time for your family, and know that they are there to support you through the bad times and the good.
Lastly, I’d like to leave you on a positive note, despite the atmosphere you are entering the law enforcement world in. I’ve often heard veteran officers and civilians ask: “Why would you want to be a cop? Why would you want to in this day and age where there is such hatred and disrespect toward the profession?”
I urge you to be positive in light of this – attitudes will change. Opinions will change. You have the ability to make things better for police officers across the country. It is a heavy burden to shoulder, knowing that every action you take will be scrutinized. You will make plenty of mistakes –that is only human. I couldn’t even count the amount I made just on the first year on the job. Make your best effort to learn from these mistakes, be positive in the performance of your duty, and make ethical decisions. These things along will help you have a fulfilling career.
When you leave here today and begin your career don’t believe on the old phrase: “forget what you learned at the academy.” Remember it all. Remember the sacrifices and challenges. Remember the teamwork and the effort you put in day in and day out.
You are the future of this noble profession. You have the tools and training to succeed –and you have great people all around you to help you do so.