Notable Speech

Serve Well

By Craig Junginger, M.S.
Close-up of a police officer's badge.

Good morning guests and family members of the graduates, members of the law enforcement community, and especially the graduates. I truly am honored to stand before you as your speaker for this monumental day in your life and career. Today’s graduation culminates four months of rigorous specialized training that has prepared you to go back to your respective departments and practice what you have learned. I am sure your academy experience has been extremely challenging. You have had to keep your uniforms clean, study for exams, hone your firearms skills, and excel at driver’s training, all while trying to keep your personal life intact while away from home for four months. I would like to congratulate all of you for making it to graduation and to personally thank all of your family members here today for the sacrifice they have made to help in your success. 

In a short time you will, as many before you have, take the oath swearing to preserve and protect our constitutional rights and what they stand for. When you take this oath, you will join a long line of heroes who also have chosen a career of public service in one of the most honorable and noble of professions.

This morning while preparing my uniform, I looked at my badge as I pinned it on my shirt. I was proud of the fact that I have worn one for over 34 years. To many it simply is a piece of metal, but to me it means much more than that. It not only represents the hard work that I have put in during my career but also the trust placed in me when I took my oath as a police officer. I hope that each of you, when you look at your own badge, remember not only how hard you have worked these last four months but also the power, duty, and trust that come with wearing it. In your career, I urge you to temper the power of your badge with humility, patience, and respect because those qualities will enable you to better serve and protect your communities.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger said, “It is often overlooked that no public official in the entire range of modern government is given wider discretion on matters dealing with the daily lives of citizens as is the peace officer.” With the badge, you are entrusted with protecting our freedom and our people’s quality of life, things that are the essence of America. That is why you are given the authority, power, and responsibility to take someone’s freedom away if necessary. You should not take this responsibility lightly. In interactions that you have, remember that each person is someone’s son, mother, aunt, or brother. You should strive to uphold the trust bestowed upon you by society and keep in mind that each person whom you come across is just that—a person. Treat each person so as not to tarnish the badge upon your chest.

When I was a rookie, I remember a veteran officer telling me that I always should treat people as I would want my wife, mother, or children treated. What he meant by that is that everyone should be treated fairly and respectfully. Remember this because although you may not know the persons you are dealing with, they are family, friends, and neighbors of the community you serve.

Chief Junginger heads the Gresham (Oregon) Police Department. He presented this speech to graduates of the Oregon Public Safety Academy in Salem.
Chief Junginger heads the Gresham (Oregon) Police Department. He presented this speech to graduates of the Oregon Public Safety Academy in Salem.

While here at the academy, your instructors have made sure that you are well versed in defensive tactics and the use of force. I still remember what one of my first training officers told me many, many years ago: “Go in like a lamb because you can always come out like a lion.” There will be times in your career when you have to use force to protect yourself, your fellow officers, or members of the community. But, much more often, you can get the job done by listening, talking, and showing compassion.

Even though these responsibilities may seem like a heavy burden, as they should, remember that this is a job. I know that when I put on my uniform and head off to work that this is what I do, not who I am. The job does not define who I am as a husband, father, friend, and person. Do not neglect your interests, friends, or family because those are the things that truly define you. They will keep you grounded, keep your life in perspective, and continually remind you of why you entered the profession. You never can serve others if not supported and loved by your family and friends. You want to be an outstanding cop? Be an outstanding father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or friend.

Conduct yourself with honor, remembering that your personal credibility and reputation are the most important assets that you possess. Let each action be driven by the desire to not only uphold but strengthen your reputation. If you lose your credibility, if people cannot trust you, or if you give someone a reason to doubt you, what do you have at the end of the day? You are given the opportunity to create your reputation with every call you go on, every report you write, and every person you come across. Do not waste those opportunities.

I know I can speak for each of your departments and your families: We are proud of your accomplishments today. As you go forward into the profession, continue to make us proud by carrying yourself with honor, dignity, and respect. Thank you for allowing me to speak today, and I wish all of you in the graduating class the best in your new profession.