David Jones, 35, lined up next to his peers along the side of the West Sacramento California Highway Patrol Academy’s gymnasium Friday morning, awaiting his turn on stage.
The Sacramento resident and former disc jockey was one of the 126 graduating cadets who completed the academy’s 28-week program and were preparing to receive a badge to commemorate the accomplishment. After graduation, the new officers will be dispatched to different cities throughout the state to patrol California’s highways.
“It’s a little surreal,” said Jones, who will begin work in San Jose. “It’s been a long process.”
The graduation ceremony, held in the campus gymnasium, celebrated the academy’s cadet training class III-2016. The training facility houses every CHP cadet from the state throughout the seven-month program as they hone their driving, physical training and legal skills.
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“They’re training to persevere and push through the pain,” said Officer Mike Martis, CHP spokesman.
The ceremony was preceded by an inspection from academy instructors and top CHP officials, including CHP Commissioner Joseph Farrow.
Members from the graduating class shook their hands, sharing a moment and a few words with each of the men as their families looked on.
“He’s pretty much grown up,” said Naomi Ortega, who traveled from the Los Angeles area to see her son, Christian Ortega, 23, graduate from the academy.
“With everything that’s going on, it’s bittersweet,” she said.
The ceremony came a week after officers met for a bell toll ceremony to honor CHP Officer Lucas Chellew at the same facility. The south Sacramento patrolman and father of two young children died from injuries suffered in a crash during a high-speed chase with a fleeing motorcyclist.
Chellew’s family, including his mother, sister, also a CHP officer, and father, retired North Sacramento CHP Capt. Charles “Chuck” Chellew, sat in one of the front rows. They looked on as Farrow addressed the new graduates during the ceremony, held in the patrolman’s honor.
“His services were tremendous. The wounds are still fresh and very painful,” Farrow said.
A class flag with Chellew’s name that was carried during the cadet’s 5-mile run to the state Capitol was also presented to officers from the CHP’s south Sacramento office.
Farrow reminded the new cadets of the CHP’s long history of pride and honor, a legacy that they should strive to continue as they begin their careers.
“It’s at this facility that friendships are made,” he said. “Friendships that last an entire lifetime and certainly an entire career.”
The class also heard from one of its own: graduate Christopher Keeler, 32, from Atwater. Keeler was elected class president by his peers for his leadership and sense of camaraderie.
“We gained a better understanding of each other,” he said during the ceremony. “Over the course of 28 weeks, we transformed from individuals to a cohesive team.”
The ceremony came to a close as graduates came onto the stage, one by one, to receive their badges. Many were joined by family members, spouses and young children as they snapped a photograph with the CHP commissioner.
After taking the agency’s code of honor, new graduates were met by family and friends at the facility’s courtyard. There, a family member selected by each graduate pinned the officers with their new badge.
“He even feels different,” said Jones’ mother, Joy Jones, after hugging and pinning her son. “It’s a proud day.”