Clayton County police Officer Harold A. Milanes with this family after Friday’s graduation. From left are his stepfather, Ricardo Silveira, mother Martha Martinez, sister Angeline Silveira, family friend Reina Martin and wife Zurisaray Espinosa. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)
JONESBORO — Newly-sworn Clayton County police Officer Casey Paige Rector swept up her children in a joyous embrace after a graduation ceremony Friday afternoon.
After all, Rector said, Caynie, 6, and Beckett, 2, are why she joined the police department.
“My kids,” she said. “I wanted them to have a good future. I’m excited to get out there. I’m ready to start this job and serve.”
Rector was one of 11 recruits of Basic Law Enforcement Training Class 007 to ascend to police officer or sheriff’s deputy. Dozens of relatives and friends crowded into the department’s Community Room, cameras in hand to record the life-changing event.
Ron Hayward watched as his son, Keon Hayward, not only completed the program but gave the class speech as the honor graduate. After the ceremony, he pinned a police shield to his son’s brand new, sharply-pressed dark blue uniform.
“I’m proud of him,” said Ron Hayward. “I just want him to be safe.”
Keon Hayward’s brother, Koron Hayward, was more laid-back about the achievement.
“I think it’s gonna be cool,” he said.
Of course, he’s only 9 and not entirely convinced public safety is his own calling.
“Naw, I’m gonna do something else, like play for NBA,” said Koron Hayward.
The well-spoken Keon Hayward called the 15 weeks of police academy training “a journey that was long, rough and challenging.”
“Now, we start understanding the complex difficulties of defending the citizenry,” he said.
Two of the recruits joined the Clayton County Sheriff’s Department. One of them, Jonathan Balsam, took both academic awards for top scores.
Other new officers are George Lee Allen, Philippe Baptiste, Benjamin Cole Bellamy, Harold Ray Burtz Jr., Michael Lamont Edwards, Harold A. Milanes, Tierre Sentell Roby and Saint-Jean Welkind.
Their new boss, Chief Greg Porter, told them they now bear an awesome responsibility.
“It is your responsibility to protect the trust of the community,” he said. “Once that trust is broken, it can never be repaired. Always take the lessons you learned at the academy and strive for moments of excellence. Be the officer you’d want your family to interact with.”
Deputy Chief Gina Hawkins welcomed not only the 11 but their families, too.
“For you are all members of our family now,” she said.
Hawkins said the officers are part of a department that values honor, integrity, transparency and professionalism.
“You have the honor of standing for others who can’t stand for themselves,” she said. “Integrity is choosing always to be honest, doing the right thing even when you don’t want to do the right thing. It takes a split secede to destroy integrity.”
In advocating transparency, the officers are “voluntarily open to be judged.”
“We know you are watching us and that’s OK,” said Hawkins. “This is a professional career, not a job.”