CHESAPEAKE, Va. – Six new Chesapeake Police officers and two new sheriff’s deputies took the oath of office Thursday night inside city council chambers.
For police academy President Jackson Tindall, serving is in his blood. The 23-year-old is following in the footsteps of his father, a former Chesapeake Police officer who died earlier this year right before Tindall’s training.
“When I was just coming in and I was just so tired, I would look at it and I would just feel him with me and know that whatever I went through that day, he was going to be there to help me out,” said Tindall.
Thursday, Tindall carried a picture of his dad in his chest pocket so he could be close to his heart as he stood alongside his graduating class of newly sworn officers for the Chesapeake Police Department.
“I thought it was only right that since he can’t be here today, that he walk across with me,” Tindall said.
The profession isn’t easy. A police officer’s job is arguably one of the most difficult in America that’s becoming increasingly harder.
Tindall is hoping to change some of the negative perception of the badge and rebuild trust in the communities they serve.
“I want to be able to go out there and talk to the community and be able to help mend those bridges that have been causing that scrutiny,” he said. “Being able to go out and talk to children and tell them, 'We're here for you.'”
Perhaps now more than ever, officers’ actions are being called into question and cries for more accountability and reform are growing.
Police Chief Kelvin Wright reminded the newest members of the force to serve with kindness, compassion and integrity.
“Trust the process,” Wright said. “If you do the things the way that we asked you to do them by our policies, and certainly by doing things correctly, they will be fine. The scrutiny that we are receiving in law enforcement is well welcomed; in fact, it's timely.”
New graduate Sheriff’s Deputy Tracy Branch took Wright’s words to heart, explaining why he chose to wear the uniform.
“I just wanted to fight for people who couldn't fight for themselves,” said Branch. “The most important thing was to be a positive role model for my son because there's a lot of negativity in the world. I just wanted to be somebody he could look up to and be proud of.”
Even after Thursday’s graduating class, Chief Wright said he’s still down 30 officers after many of them recently retired.
A new class of recruits, however, will be starting October 1, and if they all make it through the police academy, the department will be nearly fully staffed.