A police academy graduation speech…

Well, the thirty week journey for recruit class 2016-02 is over.

They woke up this morning as police officers, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.

St. Louis is twenty-six really good people stronger on the police force today and I was proud to be their class supervisor.

One of the tasks as the class supervisor is to say a few words on behalf of the Academy to the class and their guests.

There was a full house last night, and I knew there would be. Good people come from other good people, and they all showed up to support their friends and loved ones, so I was admittedly a little bit nervous.

At the end of the day, I’m a cop, not a politician or professor, so public speaking isn’t exactly my thing.

Still, I think it went okay and below is the speech I gave.

I’m sharing this because exactly one person has requested to see it, and that’s good enough for me.

Thank you for reading.


Thank you, Mr. Gray, and thank you Mayor Slay, Chief Dotson, all the special guests on stage and especially all of the officers, command rank and otherwise, who are here tonight, showing support for our newest officers, the graduates of recruit class 2016-02.

When I woke up this morning at 5:30 AM, I thought to myself, I bet those recruits are the happiest 26 people in the world right now.

I really did think that.

But then, two minutes later, at 5:32 AM, my 2 little guys stormed down the stairs together and started running laps around the kitchen in their Underoos, with their arms in the air, yelling and screaming “snow day snow day!” and I knew that I was wrong.

You guys were not the happiest 26 people in the world this morning…

Still, I know you guys had to wake up very happy to have reached this point, and I am truly happy for you.

We all are, everyone here tonight…

I’ve spent 30 weeks with you guys, which I know, for most of you, was 29 and a half weeks more than you wanted, but you endured, and you made it.

Hot dog, right?

You guys did it and I’m proud of each one of you.

On June 13th of last year, 39 young men and women walked through the front door of the police academy hoping to be where you are right now.

They all hoped to be police officers.

For those paying attention, yes, we lost some people along the way. 13 of the people who walked through that Police Academy door with these officers almost 7 months ago, are not here to become police officers tonight.

They aren’t here for various reasons, but at the end of the day, we lost them because the academy is not easy.

And the academy is not easy because the job that it prepares people to do, this calling really, it isn’t easy either, and it isn’t for everyone.

Being a police officer is a lot of things. It can be exhilarating at times, and man, if you do this job right, it will bring you rewards that you can’t get doing any other job.

Those rewards won’t be found in your bank account though, no, don’t count on that, but you’ll know when you’ve been rewarded, because you’ll feel it, right here (touch heart).

Right here.

You may feel it after a stranger in a restaurant buys you lunch anonymously,

You may feel it because an old woman stops you in the parking lot of a truck stop and asks you if you will pray with her, and you do and you are moved when she holds your hand in hers and prays for your safety and your courage and that you will be fair and use good judgement.

It could be from the smile of a small child you see as he’s pointing right at you and telling his mom, excitedly, “look mommy,” a police officer or maybe you’ll feel rewarded after a simple thank you from a victim or even a suspect, who appreciates that you’ve done nothing more for them than treated him or her with some respect.

Your reward could stem from any number of seemingly small gestures that you will experience or witness, that always seem to come right when you need them the most. These little things and the people who do them, will drive you and they make this job so worth it.

The job can also be fun. It really is. If you get out there and you’re not having fun, then you’re doing this job wrong. If this is your calling, then it’s addicting almost. You’ll meet so many people and make so many friends both on the department and in the community, that you’ll lose track, but even so, in spite of the fun you will have, and the satisfaction and the rewards that you will get from doing it, this job is still dangerous.

The job is a lot of things, but easy isn’t one of them.

It isn’t easy for a lot of reasons, and you’ll learn those reasons for yourself along the way.

This job, your job now, is taxing. It can wear on you, if you let it. It’ll tax your mind and your heart and sometimes… it taxes your soul.

It’s taxing on your families and close friends too. Accept that these people here tonight will worry about you, that’s what family members do.

Let them.

Accept it and appreciate it.

I’m 43 years old and my phone still rings whenever an officer, St. Louis City or otherwise, is injured or killed within 100 miles of this city.
It’s always mom and then the wife, or the wife and then mom. I’m grateful for both of them, even when the calls are at the worst possible times.

You’ll get those calls and sometimes you can’t answer right away. When you have a chance, let them know you’re safe. They’ll keep worrying otherwise. They deserve that much.

Hey, It takes a special person to do what you’re about to do.

A special person who is maybe just a little bit deranged. Maybe we’re all just a little bit off in the head, but our hearts are in the right place.

You’ve heard this already, but it can’t be overstated so that you will remember…. You will run across people when they are having bad moments, but bad moments don’t make all of them bad people.

We are appreciated by most of the people in the community. We really are and I hope you recognize that.

There are people in every one of the City’s neighborhoods who want you out there.

They need you out there.

Your efforts at work will make a difference, no matter how small, every single shift. You do your job correctly and you will matter to someone. I promise you that.

So when you get out on those streets come tomorrow, or Monday, or whenever, just do what you’ve done for 30 weeks. Work hard, do the right thing, and ask for help, if you’re not sure what to do. Most other officers will bend over backwards to help you. Call me, if you need to. Do these things and each one of you will succeed.  You will make us all proud.

Among a few other awesome things, the class got me a mug, pictured below, that reads, “2016-02” which is their class title, and “meh” underneath it. I’m laughing right now just reading it. While I may have thought, “meh” at the beginning of their time in the Academy, I assure you all that I am truly proud of what the Academy is putting out on the streets today.img_0610

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12 Responses to A police academy graduation speech…

  1. Anonymous says:

    Don’t sell yourself short – if that’s any indication, you’re a great public speaker!

  2. 1jaded1 says:

    Hi Don. Hope you had a great holiday season. Your students learned from the best (you) so they will do great. Thank you for keeping the City safe.

  3. So fantastic!!! They are so lucky to have had you as their instructor/supervisor! You’re no ordinary person. Your dedication, expertise, outlook and humor are exactly what they needed to see and learn from in order to succeed! 😀

    I showed this to my son and husband (as I often do when you write) and they truly appreciated it. My son just got off a week where he had to be in charge and do all commands etc, and he learned a lot. Tomorrow we go to the Family Open House and I’ll be picturing you doing what these instructors will show us and teach us! I decided to forgo the cookies! 😜

    Great speech!

  4. Jude says:

    Always enjoy your writings. Keep turning out the good guys – you are awesome at your job.

  5. julie says:

    You’re crazy. You know that right? You are a fantastic speaker! I couldn’t agree with the other comments more! I so enjoy your posts Don! Carry on, and stay safe!

  6. Helen B. Niemira says:

    Thank you. Have a phenomenal New Year.

  7. markbialczak says:

    I hope the 26 “guys” in 2016-02 take as much pride in the calling as you do, Don. If they listened well to your words in class and again at the end of your teaching arc, there’s a chance. And then your community, and in turn our world, will be a better place. Bravo, my friend.

  8. ameliasmom13 says:

    This has been invaluable in my attempt to write a speech as class leader of my academy class. I appreciate your words so much and hope to write something that resounds just as perfectly in the hearts of new police officers. Thank you so so much. Beautiful words.

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