RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Nineteen new Richmond Police officers graduated from training academy Friday in a ceremony that was full of memorable moments.
The 19 officers from across the world, including Argentina, the United Kingdom and other states such as Maine, went through a seven-month training schedule which consists of an expanded curriculum that includes community engagement in public housing communities, city schools and homeless shelters.
“It feels really great,” officer Benjamin Malone, of Bangor, Maine, said. “It’s been a long time coming. A lot of sweat and tears.”
It’s a similar sentiment shared by Malone’s classmates.
“We ride ready!” the class shouted during the graduation ceremony.
That phrase is one the 19 officers associated themselves with over the last 32 weeks.
“We say ‘we ride ready’ meaning we’re ready for Richmond; ready for whatever,” officer Keiya Isaac said.
The graduates are ready to embark on their new journey in law enforcement, leaving behind other careers.
"I was a professional ballet dancer," Malone said.
Malone moved to Richmond in 2011 to dance with the Richmond Ballet. While the two careers seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum, Malone said there are similarities.
“The athletic portion, of course,” he added. “Staying in shape, being flexible, being able to move your body and being able to work with people closely.”
Malone is just one of the many new RPD officers with a story to share.
Officer Brenda Ruiz Oyler immigrated to the U.S. when she was 9 years old. She became an American citizen in 2018 in order to achieve her dream of becoming a police officer.
Officer Darrell Goins followed in his father’s steps, Richmond Police Maj. Darrel Goins Sr. In 1999, Goins Sr. was pinned by his son. On Friday, that moment was re-created a generation later – father pinning son.
Friday’s graduation also made history in the Richmond Police Department.
“We’re female twins,” officer Kayla Isaac said.
Keiya and Kayla Isaac are now the first set of female twins to join RPD. Kayla graduated in January, which meant she was able to pin the badge on her sister, Keiya, Friday.
“It feels amazing!” Keiya said. “We’ve grown up together and now we’re on the street together. I know she’ll always have my back and I’ll always have her back.”
But don’t forget about officer Christen Peterson - a cancer survivor and mother of six.
“I love my babies,” she said.
Surrounded by her family, Peterson was pinned by her oldest son.
“I got this done with the support of family, with the support of ... my classmates,” Peterson said.
Those classmates who have created a bond like no other.
“We bring different [qualities],” Keiya Isaac said. “I think with RPD we’re going to make a difference, make a great difference.”
However, perhaps one of the most heartwarming sights at the 119th graduation ceremony, was what officer Kyle Leahy had stored in his pocket – an engagement ring for his girlfriend, Nikki Mercier.
“I honestly had no idea,” she said. “I was just super excited for him today. Holy cow!”
“I’ve been planning this for a while,” Leahy said.
As the newly engaged couple prepares for the next ride of their lives, the 19 officers are ready to ride the streets of Richmond.
Copyright 2019 WWBT. All rights reserved.