Police chief to new grads: Respect is earned
Chief Jose Lopez welcomed 16 new officers Tuesday into the Durham Police Department by reminding them that one essential ingredient to success – respect – is never free, but must be earned.
“This community doesn’t owe it to you,” Lopez said at the Durham Police Academy graduation ceremony at Duke Memorial United Methodist Church. “You need to earn it.”
Lopez said there are four kinds of respect that officers must have: self-respect, family respect, officers’ respect and community respect.
“You need to do what’s right for this organization, and to realize that this shiny badge that you’re getting today can tarnish easily if you don’t take care of it,” he said. “But it will tarnish a lot deeper if you do something to dishonor it. So make sure that you go out and earn the respect of other officers.”
Lopez said earning citizens’ respect can be hard, “because there’s a lot of history in law enforcement that makes it really difficult to get that trust. But it’s not impossible.”
“This is the reason we’re here,” Lopez said. “It’s to serve this community. And we need to remember that at every point in time.”
Among those at the ceremony were Durham Mayor Bill Bell, Durham City Councilman Eugene Brown and Durham County District Attorney Leon Stanback.
Lopez, perhaps mindful of their presence, asked that elected officials keep officers’ safety in mind as they “go through budgets.”
He ended his remarks by expressing confidence in his newly minted officers.
“You’re a member of the best police department in the world, I believe. And you’re part of the best city in the world, also,” Lopez said.
“Your challenge is to turn around the mindset of the world as far as their thoughts on law enforcement. It’s a tough challenge. I have no doubt that you can do it.”
Also speaking was class leader Jenny Hollingsworth, who said that although training was tough “and throwing in the towel would have been much easier,” the class stuck it out and “stayed together.”
“We are joining a wonderful family and need to remember at all times to do the right thing, because our decisions don’t just affect us personally, but every other police officer out there.”
She urged fellow class members to have compassion for those they encounter “in the streets, and to care about the situation, whatever it may be.”
Hollingsworth said one of the most valuable assets an officer can have is a good reputation.
“We have been told often not to ruin our reputations, because it’s hard to get a good one back.”