This is the third in a series of stories entitled “PLAN B” about how people who usually work in front of crowds are adapting to life offstage because of the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Five Gainesville Police Department candidates earned the opportunity to become part of the GPD family on April 28th though their, “actions, integrity and attitudes,” Lt. Renee Guyan said as she addressed those candidates at a swearing-in ceremony televised live on the GPD’s Facebook page.
“As our world is battling the coronavirus pandemic, we, like many states, are under emergency orders that restrict our ability to gather,” she said. “But taking time to recognize a special occasion is important. So today we come together in a space that allows us to share it with friends and families in a virtual way.”
“The officers standing before us today have undergone a rigorous hiring process and have been vetted thoroughly,” Guyan said. “They have completed an in-house academy training and taught department policy and procedures that have prepared them for the next step in this adventure of field training.”
Candidates Steven Charlton, Francis Highland, Joshua Johnson, Michael McKinstry, and Justin Thomas were addressed by GPD leaders in the auditorium at Gainesville City Hall before taking the oath to become officers.
GPD Capt. Anthony Ferrara of the Criminal Investigations Division congratulated the candidates as he spoke to them.
“What is it about this job?,” asked Ferrara who said he spent 25 out of his 50 years dedicated to the people of Gainesville. “This career, this calling of law enforcement?
“If in your heart right now, you don’t love this job, you’re going to set yourself off on a course that you will never return from,” he said. “You have to love this job, you need to love this job.
“We talk family on a day-to-day basis,” Ferrara said. “We help each other up, we push each other forward and we never leave anyone behind. Remember that.”
GPD Chief Tony Jones then stood behind the podium and addressed the five new candidates and returning Assistant Police Chief Lonnie Scott , Sr.
“To the officers that are just coming on, you are coming on during a time of this virus that is something I haven’t seen in my career,” Jones said. “And I never thought I would imagine seeing something where we are doing stay-at-home orders.
“We can plan for hurricanes, but this is not something anyone could be prepared for. You chose to continue because you want to get out there and protect your citizens.
“I call it public safety,” Jones said. “It’s the public and the police working together to make this community a great community for all.”
Jones gave advice to the candidates. “When you are out there in the field you are going to run into some good people, you’re going to run into some bad people also. But you are going to take it case by case,” he said and reminded them of the three Cs.
“Compassion,” he said. “Consistent, do for one, do for all. And the bedrock of everything you do, you’ve got to be Constitutional.
“Do those things and you’ll get along fine in the community,” he said.
The candidates then stood with right hands raised and took an oath promising to:
“Support, protect and defend the Constitution and government of the United States and the State of Florida against all enemies domestic and foreign.”
Lt. Guyan addressed the newly-sworn in officers.
“As a police officer you make decisions that impact people’s lives,” she said. “You will meet them on their worst days. They may not remember what you say to them, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
“Know that you can do your job with respect and humility. You can take a person to jail without being arrogant, and you can mediate a situation with about appearing weak.
“You will be impacted by this job,” she said. “It will bring you joy and satisfaction as well as sadness and disbelief. Look out for each other, lean on your support system. Lean on them to carry you through the tough times.”
After taking the Oath of Office, Guyan said, “That gesture does not signify the end of your journey but the beginning.
“By handing you the badge, Chief Jones will be giving you the opportunity to serve the residents of Gainesville and him and this department with every contact you make. You were picked for a reason.”