Department welcomes 33 new officers

Words can’t describe how happy Solomon Ona Jr. said he was Monday to begin his new job as a Baton Rouge police officer.

“I’m so excited,” Ona, a 26-year-old Baton Rouge native, said with a big smile. “I’m ready to get to work.”

Ona and 32 other Baton Rouge Police Department trainees became police officers Monday morning at a graduation ceremony at Baton Rouge Community College.

The officers’ successfully completed the department’s training academy, which began in late July.

“It was (difficult), but at the same time it was a learning process,” Ona said of the academy. “I won’t say I’m glad to be out of it because you’re always learning regardless of if you’re in the training academy or not.”

Monday’s ceremony began with the officers marching onto stage as family and friends in the audience snapped photographs of them.

In a speech, Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden highlighted the importance of first responders in the wake of the elementary school shooting in Connecticut on Friday.

Holden said officers pay a high price for their service.

“They leave home in the morning not knowing whether they will return in the afternoon, or they leave home at night not knowing whether they will return the next day,” Holden said. “There is something very special about the men and women who wear the uniform.”

Police Chief Dewayne White noted that he graduated as part of the Police Department’s 48th training academy and was presiding Monday over the 78th academy’s graduation.

White offered high praise for the class.

“This class has distinguished itself among and above many others that preceded it,” White said.

White told the officers that their new badges are symbols of peace and order and not just authority.

White asked the officers to hold themselves to a high standard and not be concerned about advancing in rank.

“It is the manner in which you do the job and how you treat people over the course of your career that will determine whether you have put yourselves as a blemish or stain on the department that history and time will soon forget, or whether you will forever be written in the annals of the history of the Baton Rouge Police Department,” he said.

Officer Wallace Britton, president of the training class, gave a rousing speech, complimenting the officers on their accomplishments in training and telling the audience how prepared the new officers are for duty.

“Throughout this academy, we were warned about those bad guys. But let me ask you this: Did you warn those bad guys about us?” Britton said, which elicited applause.

After the new officers were given certificates of commission, they walked out into the audience where family and friends pinned their new badges onto their uniforms.

At the end of the event, the officers gathered at the center of the stage and shouted “78” in honor of the 78th training before celebrating.

Ona, one of the new officers, said the ceremony was an emotional experience for him.

“I was getting teared up when I was saying the prayer (at the end),” he said. “I’m going to miss everybody.”