HOUSTON – A new class of Houston Police officers graduated from the academy aiming to change any negative image of peace officers in their community.
Forget, for the moment, whatever scrutiny rains on police these days. The Houston Police Academy remains an umbrella to some. It is a proving ground for cadets eager to take that next step: swearing to serve and protect a public that may not always be willing to accept.
“It’s a tough climate,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “Not everyone can be a police officer. I don’t think it’s a job. It’s a calling.”
Mayor Turner called HPD Cadet Class 226 courageous.
“It’s in the blood,” said Graciella Valencia, a newly sworn in officer.
For Valencia, the badge over her heart feels like a family crest. Her brother Andrew is an HPD hit-and-run investigator. Their dad, George is a retired NYPD officer who survived 9/11.
Despite seeing their ups and downs, increased scrutiny on police nationwide via body cameras, civilian cell phone cameras and heightened tension between police and communities, Valencia wants in.
“That’s not going to stop me from doing what I have to do with HPD because I have a goal and I need to complete it,” she said.
Her goal is to obliterate negative police stereotypes.
“I don’t want to be labeled that’s the girl in the blue uniform (that) is going to harass me,” Valencia said. “No. That’s the girl in the blue uniform who is going to change my life or is going to help me. When you call, I’m going to be the first one to respond to you.”
Emboldened by lessons from her dad, Valencia is anxious to make her family proud.
“I told her to pray, serve well and respect everybody as equals and you will have a very good career,” George Valencia said.