New officers take oath

Published 9:46 pm Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Suffolk Police Department welcomed eight new officers into its family at a Badge Pinning Ceremony on Tuesday morning.

“We are here to congratulate you, and we are happy to have you as part of the family,” Mayor Linda Johnson said. “Thank you for deciding to be a part of the Suffolk Police Department.”

The eight new officers — Travis Gardner, Carlos Gonzalez Jr., Jacob Hughes, Summer Johnson, Anthony Lucena, Christian McIntyre, Timothy Olah and Brigitte Wendel — were sworn in by Clerk of the Circuit Court Randy Carter in the packed City Council chambers.

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Among the officers, two followed in the footsteps of their family. Brigitte Wendel’s father was a police officer for Richmond Police Department, and he was killed in the line of duty. Members from Richmond Police were in attendance to support Wendel.

“You have had a family with them, and now you’re being welcomed into a new family,” said Police Chief Thomas Bennett.

Carlos Gonzalez Jr. also followed family tradition, becoming the fourth to become a Suffolk Police officer. Both his father and grandfather were in attendance.

The new officers graduated from the Police Academy on Tuesday, and now they will enter into the second phase of their training, referred to as “post-academy.” Their education will continue in the classroom for another eight to 10 weeks before they actually go into the field.

This next phase of training will introduce the new officers to how policing occurs in Suffolk. They learn how to interact with citizens and other specifics related to Suffolk, according to Bennett.

“We will spray you with pepper spray, so that you know how it feels when you do it to someone else,” Bennett said with a laugh. “We will also taze you so that you know what it feels like before you do it to someone.”

Both Chief Bennett and Mayor Johnson made it clear that the job of a police offer is not an easy one, and it requires a different commitment than most jobs.

“You will make a lot of mistakes, and you will learn a lot from your mistakes,” Bennett said.

“It’s not boring, but it’s hard. You did it for your love of people, city, state and this country. You are the face of our city,” Johnson said. “Thank you for what you have done and what you will do.”

Bennett ended the ceremony with a list of 20 pieces of advice for new officers. Some of the advice was lighthearted.

“Don’t call out sick unless you might die,” Bennett said. “Don’t give your opinion to a senior officer, unless they ask.”

Some of the advice was much more serious, and Bennett hopes the officers take the advice to heart.

“Always wear your seatbelt,” Bennett said. “The leading cause of deaths for police officers is auto accidents.”