Sheriff, police chief address graduates
Behind the badge of a law enforcement officer is a man or woman willing to serve and to possibly make the greatest sacrifice.
"Every day you put that badge on, you walk out that door of your home knowing you may not come back," Sheriff Bob Alford told graduates in the 22nd graduating class of Burleson's Citizens Police Academy.
About 20 residents graduated last week from the eight-week course. The academy students range from one member still enrolled in high school to retirees.
"The Burleson Police Department is without a doubt one of the finest law enforcement agencies I've ever worked with," said Alford, who says he's worked cases in about every county in Texas.
"Relationships that are built through the Citizens Police Academy are important," Class instructor and BPD Traffic Sgt. Brian O'Heren said. "It allows us to get to know more than just a name or face."
Police Chief Billy Cordell encouraged class members not to see graduation as an ending, but a beginning to more involvement with the police department.
"We certainly have opportunities for you to serve," Cordell said.
The evening began with a slide show including every law enforcement officer in America killed in the line of duty in 2016, including Burleson resident Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens. He was fatally wounded in a July shooting in Dallas.
"The one common thread is they were all brave enough to pin on a badge and say I'm willing to protect you," Cordell said.
Graduates of academy classes like Burleson's help build alliances in the community, Alford said.
"We have to know we have community support," he said. "When we know we have your support, you will get the policing you demand."
Johnson County's sheriff's office has had four incidents in Alford's 20 years that have left a civilian dead, he said.
"I can tell you it destroys police officers that they had to pull that trigger," Alford said. "Only one of those is continuing to work in law enforcement."
He encouraged graduates to become active in the Burleson community and work to build more support for police.
"For most people, the only relationship they've had with law enforcement is an 8-10 minute stop where they may have got a ticket," Alford said.
He also drew a laugh from graduates with an exchange he had with O'Heren, who introduced Alford as a longtime friend who administered his oath upon graduation from the police academy.
"Brian's wrong," Alford said. "We're not friends … not since he left the sheriff's office for Burleson."