Class 62 joins ‘thin blue line’ of Winston-Salem PD

by Keith Barber

Winston-Salem Police Officer Brady AM Ferguson poses for a photo with his aunt, Maureen Thomas, after receiving his badge during the graduation of Class 62 from the Winston-Salem Police Academy. (photo by Keith T. Barber)

Winston-Salem Assistant Police Chief Barry Rountree welcomed the latest class of graduates as members of the “thin blue line” — a phrase commonly used to refer to the barrier created by police officers to protect society from anarchy — during the graduation of 32 police academy cadets from Basic Law Enforcement Training on July 22.

Rountree, along with Beth Hutchens, widow of Sgt. Mickey Hutchens, then presented the honor graduate award to Officer Seth Reynolds. Police Chief Scott Cunningham presented the Lt. Aaron G. Tise Jr. Colleague Award to Officer Adam Prim. Tise, a Winston-Salem police officer, was killed in the line of duty in 1992. The presentation of honors to police academy cadets was but a small part of a commencement ceremony that added 32 new police officers to the Winston-Salem Police Department.

Mayor Allen Joines lauded the graduates for their determination and resolve to take on a career in law enforcement.

“You’ve got a difficult and complex job,” Joines said. “People just don’t understand that enforcing the law is just one piece of that. It’s all this mosaic of what you are as a law enforcement officers.”

Joines speculated that the new officers took the challenge freely because they decided they wanted to help others.

“You wanted to give back to this community and make it a better place,” he said. “On behalf of our citizens, I thank you for that.”

The highest calling of a local government is public safety, Joines said, and all Winston- Salem’s citizens were grateful for the new officers’ willingness to put their lives on the line “so that we can sleep soundly at night knowing that you’re out there protecting us,” he said.

Joines informed the officers that they are now a vital part of one of the best police departments in the nation and much will be expected of them.

“I’m confident that you will meet and exceed those expectations,” Joines said.

The 32 new police officers heard congratulations from a number of city officials, including City Manager Lee Garrity.

“The important part about that is we are one team,” Garrity told the officers. “Don’t think twice about calling on other city employees and departments because to really solve problems…think of that as one team. That’s what we’re really about is improving quality of life.”

In his commencement address, Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill also congratulated the 32 police recruits on completing law enforcement training, but also clearly laid out the expectations of the District Attorney’s Office.

“We expect that you always tell the truth, always,” O’Neill said. “Your reputation is not worth a trespassing case or a drunk driving case down to criminal court or traffic court. It’s your reputation — your reputation will follow you as long as you’re a member of that police department.”

O’Neill impressed upon the new officers that they are the face of the police department.

“When you’re out and you’re pulling over somebody— you’re only rookies right now, but that person you pull over will someday be a juror on a case of ours and it might be a really important case,” O’Neill said. “That may be the only time that person gets pulled over and they will remember you and they will remember how you treated them. Did you show character? Did you show dignity? Did you do your job?” A recent report by the police department reveals that violent crimes dropped by more than 8 percent from 2009 to 2010. Yet, during the first six months of 2011, violent crimes including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault have increased nearly 6 percent as compared to the same period last year.

“But we don’t do this all by ourselves,” O’Neill continued. “We do this with the help of law enforcement and primarily, 70 to 80 percent of our cases are with the police department. We rely on you; you will come to rely on us. We are here to help you.”

After O’Neill’s remarks, each police officer was presented with a certificate and a badge. One at a time, the new officers posed for photos with relatives and loved ones as official members of the police department. O’Neill left the 32 officers with a final thought.

“I ask you to stay safe out there — be safe,” he said. “Watch out for each other but most of all be safe.”