Gregory Stroud Jr.
Rick Van Ness
Stephanie Braisted held her 1-year-old daughter in one arm. With the other, she pinned a police badge on her husband, Matthew, a newly sworn-in police officer.
Matthew Braisted was among 30 men and women who graduated from cadet training to become the newest members of the Chattanooga police force Thursday night at Calvary Chapel on Broad Street. Mayor Andy Berke, Police Chief Fred Fletcher and Signal Mountain Police Chief Mike Williams were among the speakers at the ceremony.
Stephanie Braisted said this day was long anticipated. She said her husband has wanted to be a police officer since he was in high school. She admitted her emotions were mixed as she was pinning on his badge.
"I have an idea of what he's going to be walking into for the rest of his career," she said, clinging to her child. "But a lot of pride."
The ceremony was filled with speakers, a video montage of the officers' training experiences and the administering of the oath of office. Shooting range, academic and physical fitness awards were also handed out. The presenter of the physical fitness award made sure to mention the winner, Joel Gunn, could plank — hold an extended push-up pose — for 10 minutes.
"It was very impressive," he said.
Fletcher and Berke both spoke about the July 16 shooting that killed five servicemen, and the mindset a police officer has to have to put his or her life on the line to keep a community safe.
"Every day, I am more impressed and honored to work with the people who populate our Chattanooga Police Department," Berke said.
Williams was the guest speaker. Before taking the Signal Mountain job, he was a longtime officer with the Chattanooga Police Department. He talked about his life, how much technology has progressed and cracked jokes.
He ended his speech with a story. Back when he was an officer, he was assigned to the area near East Lake Courts. At first, the neighborhood kids feared him and wouldn't talk to him.
So he went to Kroger and bought suckers so the kids would come talk to him. He didn't want them to be afraid of him.
A boy named Michael Brown, who was 4 years old, was the first to come up to Williams and the two built a relationship. Then more boys and girls from the community approached. He still has now-adult men and women from the community who come up to him and say hello.
Williams said he always admired the courage Michael showed in being the first one to talk to him.
One day he didn't see Michael at his normal spot. Later, he learned there was a fire at Michael's house and everybody had gotten out — everyone except Michael.
"Michael had a lasting effecting on me," Williams said, speaking directly to the 30 new officers seated in the front two rows. "Look for, and find, the Michaels on your beat, and cherish them."
The graduates now will have 16 weeks of field training on the force.
Contact staff writer Evan Hoopfer at firstname.lastname@example.org or @EvanHoopfer on Twitter or 423-757-6731.