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Determined to Serve: Roanoke's Newest Police Officers

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Being a police officer has always come with some risk, but now it comes with cameras watching almost every move. One case of lethal force, even when it’s legal and right, can touch off complaints and protests. It may cause someone planning a career in law enforcement to have second thoughts. That’s not the case, however, for some new Roanoke police officers.

The badges that relatives pinned on the 18 new officers joining the Roanoke City and Roanoke County police departments came without a strip of black, ribbons those already on the beat wear these days in memory of the lawmen shot down in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

It may seem a perilous time to be a cop, but Officer David Huynh says he and his fellow rookies are ready for it. Huynh is 36, married with two children, and spent 8 years in the Army, including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The dangers have always been there before the current climate of the country. So even ten years later on, everything calms down the danger’s still going to be there, there’s still always going to be that threat to law enforcement. We just got to make sure that if we do something we do it for the right reasons.”

Reasons like watching out for your partners, serving the public.

"You want to make a difference. Whether or not it actually does happen that’s not decided upon you but everybody that gets into law enforcement you have this ideal that, you’re doing this for the greater good. You feel you want to do something for your family, for your community, whatever the reasons may be.”

Her family didn’t want 23-year-old Claicilie Mesadieu to join the military, but she says they were all behind her decision to become a police officer. And she can’t wait to start making a difference in people’s lives.

“I love people. I want to be there for them in a way that I can’t be as a normal civilian. If they need me I want them to be able to call me and I’ll be there.”

26-year-old Brent Fleming has two daughters and knows police work has some risk.

At the same time there’s a lot of good that comes out of it. You can provide service to people. There’s a whole lot of good people out there who need assistance. That’s what we’re here for.”

As much attention as police use of lethal force is getting right now, overall it’s still pretty rare. According to one study cited by Roanoke County Police Chief Howard Hall, 990 people died from police use of force last year. But there were 9,700 incidents of deadly assaults on police officers in 2015.

“That means about 90 percent of the time our police officers across the country are successfully de-escalating situations or using alternative means or less lethal force to resolve those incidents which I think is a notable statistic.”

Reassuring words to the new officers, their families and the public they say they are determined to serve.

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