HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - The Huntsville Police Department swore in 21 new officers on Friday in a ceremony at the Randolph School. The graduates of the 55th class were selected from a pool of 1,000 applicants and trained for five months to earn their badges.
The mood at the ceremony was certainly conflicted as the magnitude of the week's events weighed heavily on those in attendance.
"We have a country that has yet to be healed," said Chief Mark McMurray.
"Dallas is hurting, Huntsville is hurting, the whole United States is hurting," echoed Mayor Tommy Battle.
Within moments of receiving their badges, the 21 men and women then draped them in black as a show of support for the Thin Blue Line in Dallas.
"To all of us who wear this badge, we have a certain responsibility with this privilege, not just to carry the title of officer, but you have to be worthy of it," said McMurray.
The graduation ceremony for the new cadets was the first one for McMurrary since taking over the position in September.
"It's very hard to say congratulations because you have achieved what you have achieved and you're going out to be on the streets and to divide us from chaos to society," said Battle. "I think it's easier to say thank you, thank you for taking on the task."
Mark Francis is one of those 21 serving as President of the 55th graduating class.
"I'm humbled, but it's a little unnerving right now," he said, "but fear can either push you into a corner or it can motivate you, so I do feel motivated in a sense."
In the face of today's climate, this father of two says he has been called to serve and protect his community.
"If somebody doesn't step up to serve the community to try to bridge the gap, then it just becomes an even worse situation," said Francis.
Instead, his new brothers and sisters in blue will use this week's headlines as moments to learn, reflect and evolve.
"You have to continue growing," he said. "We can't be stagnant, we have to continue moving forward."