They looked like any class of graduates as they sat through the commencement ceremony – fidgety, anxious, eager to start their new jobs.
But the 15 men and women who were honored Friday won’t be working in fancy corporate offices.
Instead, they’ll be working in “glass houses,” one speaker told them. As law enforcement officers, their every move will be watched closely.
“We live in a world that is filled with great complexity – a world in which change happens at the speed of light,” Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams said.
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The class includes 9 police officers and 6 sheriff’s deputies. The combined class of 15 includes two women and two minorities.
“Your split-second decisions can impact an individual for life and a community for generations,” Williams said.
Sedgwick County Sheriff Robert Hinshaw will be retiring at the end of the year, concluding a law enforcement career that spans three decades. He told the graduates that, in some ways, he envies them.
“There will be times when you question whether or not you should have chosen this career,” Hinshaw said. “But when you have those moments when you know you’ve made a positive difference for someone, you know it’s worthwhile.
“You all share a common trait that makes you unique; the strength of character to place the welfare of others above yourself.”
Jeremy Gray echoed that trait when, following the ceremony, he explained why he wanted to become a police officer.
“I want to protect people who can’t protect themselves,” Gray said.
Deputy James Maness said he was responding to “a calling,” something he’s sensed since childhood.
Deputy Robert Abril called earning his badge the fulfillment of a dream.
The new officers and deputies will now spend 12 weeks in field training, where they’ll go on patrol with experienced officers.
“You may question whether you’ve learned everything you need to know,” Hinshaw said. “The simple answer is no.”
When they come across something on the streets that wasn’t covered at the academy, he said, “trust yourself.
“You would not have reached this point if you did not have the drive and ability to succeed.”