Friday’s graduation ceremony of the Lawton Police Department Academy marked a passage for 10 new officers, two Comanche County Detention Center officers and a Stephens County Sheriff’s Deputy from cadets to the ranks of active law enforcement officers.
Class spokesman, LPD Officer Drue Watkins said that connection wasn’t lost on him and his fellow classmates. With a packed audience inside the Cameron CETES Center, the connection entwined further with the citizens in attendance.
“I know I can always rely on you all and you can rely on me,” he said. “You’re my brothers and sisters.”
Watkins spoke of leaving the college classroom and almost immediately entering the academy class setting for the 20 weeks of training.
“It doesn’t matter where we came from, it matters where we are,” Watkins said. “We had to learn to work together quickly.”
“We helped each other through all of this,” he continued. “What I’m proudest of most with this class, nobody quit.”
Training officer Lt. Mark Mason credited the graduating cadets for putting in the work together and make it through the rigorous training. He also credited the department’s chiefs, the City of Lawton staff, Comanche County Detention Center Administrator William Hobbs and Stephens County Sheriff Wayne McKinney with its success.
“Thank you for allowing us to train,” he said. “There is no way we could have done this without a great many people.”
Lawton Police Chief James T. Smith credited the cadets with having the grit to persevere through the challenging training program. He said his arms are open to these new officers deigned to join his department. They are only beginning their education.
“One thing that’s clear, your training, your learning is just now beginning,” he said.
Smith said this year’s class of new LPD officers are marking a historic moment. After ringing the bell at the police station, 10 SW 4th, earlier in the morning, it may be the last time it’s done at that location. The new public safety building at the intersection of Rail Road Street and Gore Boulevard is expected to be open and operational this time in 2021.
“We’re very excited about that,” he said.
Former Comanche County Juvenile Bureau Director Rick Lowe, who now teaches at Cameron University, was the keynote speaker. He told the graduates a part of him was envious as they begin their law enforcement journey.
“My desire as a criminal justice student was to be where you are now,” he said. “My respect for your profession has only grown.”
Lowe lifted these up and coming members of the law enforcement fellowship by reminding them that the public continues to support and respect their profession. He cited Robert Peel:
“’The police are the public and the public are the police,’ they are inseparable,” he said. “You have taken the responsibility to answer the call. ... You’re going to run towards danger, not away from it.”