Saturday afternoon the Thomson Police Department held a graduation ceremony for four of its new officers.
All four officers were sworn in by McDuffie County Probate Judge Valerie Burley.
Officer Angela Lefebvre was pinned by her husband, Michael Lefebvre.
Officer Kelvin Williams was pinned by his girlfriend, Santina Jackson.
Officer Austin Madden was pinned by his father, Kent Madden.
Officer Dwayne Deloatch was pinned by his fiance, Leateakewa Jones.
Chief Eddie Moody, former Dekalb County chief of police and former City of Lithonia police chief and city administrator, provided the keynote address. Thomson Police Chief Anson Evans served under Moody in Dekalb County.
Moody asked the new police officers’ families to support their respective officers, because he said there is nothing easy about the job now.
He served 36 years in law enforcement and shared his story of where his career began.
“The first question I ask you is what’s your purpose, not what’s your goal?” Moody told the new officers. “I want you to think about that.”
On Friday, June 14, 1974 a young Moody called a neighbor because he needed a job.
“He said ‘Eddie get in the car with me,’ and he took me for a ride. I didn’t know where he was going and I ended up in the chief’s office in Dekalb County,” said Moody.
As Moody and the chief talked, the future officer shared how he had just finished junior college, had a child, one on the way, was married, and needed a job.
“The chief said, ‘Can you be here Monday morning?’” said Moody.
With that, Moody started his career in law enforcement with Dekalb County. However, he was too young to attend the police academy so he was assigned to sit at a desk and take police reports.
“I was so excited about that. I was so excited when I got my first paycheck, $410 every two weeks,” Moody said.
Moody returned to reminding the young officers to focus on their purpose and not their goal.
“This profession needs good people and I will say to you there is nothing more rewarding than serving the public,” Moody said, as he placed emphasis on the word “serve.”
“You didn’t come to be served, you came to serve. So when I look around and I see the kind of discord that’s going on I have a hard time understanding why some of the things are going on like they are because I was simply, for all of my life, a public servant,” Moody said. “And so my calling was that whatever the need was, I was there to try to fill it.”
He talked to the officers about their purpose, again reminding them they are wearing the badge to serve.
“Have you searched your soul to say ‘Who am I?’” he added.
Moody said he knows the Thomson Police Department is focused on community oriented policing and said there were about 7,000 people in Thomson.
“If you’re going to spend 30 years, you might as well try to find out who all those 7,000 people are,” Moody said.
He urged them to get out of their patrol cars and get into the community and get to know people.
The former chief said the best feeling an officer will ever have is when he gets out of a patrol car and gets to know people in the community.
“When times get tough and things happen you will turn around and you will have 7,000 people that support you. Why? Because they know you,” he said.
“You are in a great place to have a successful career and be rewarded in terms of what you have given back to this community,” he said.
He also instructed the young Thomson officers to serve with respect to all mankind, regardless of who they are. Moody shared a story of when he was working undercover narcotics and a man forced a gun into his mouth and threatened to kill him. Moody was able to talk his way out of the bad situation. Police obtained a warrant for the man and returned to arrest him. Moody said the man was in bed with his wife and pointed a gun at the officers. He was arrested and served time.
“Fast forward some 30 years later and I’m standing in the post office and I hear this voice. I turned around and there he was,” Moody said.
The former chief said the man was appreciative, thanked him for the officers not shooting him, and said the day he was arrested turned his life around.
“You never know who you’re going to impact. You never know what impact you’re going to have on somebody while you serve,” he said. “Serve all mankind, and serve them with the respect that they deserve. I promise you it will come back to you.”