City of Cleveland 141st Cleveland Police Academy Graduation Speech

Like the 37 police cadets of his class, Officer Ashondre Welch completed more than 1,000 hours of test-taking and training in the hope of becoming a Cleveland Police Officer. At the 141st Cleveland Police Academy Graduation, Welch took to the podium to share a powerful speech about the graduating class’ commitment to serve the city’s neighborhoods.

Following the ceremonial bagpipes, a procession into City Council chambers and oath of office administered by Mayor Jackson, Officer Welch addressed his classmates. In front of family and friends, Officer Welch shared his testimony of endurance, honor and commitment with the lively audience that crowded City Council Chambers:

“First, I would like to give thanks to Mayor Frank Jackson. Without his passion, commitment and continued efforts to make sure our city stays on track to becoming a more safe and peaceful place to thrive, we would not be here today. Second to Our Chief Calvin Williams, the recruiting team, our command staff, Tri-C instructors and any others that I did not mention who have worked tirelessly in the background preparing us for this day; I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I would like to take this time to recognize the family and friends sitting behind you. You have played a major role in our lives. You have supported, protected and encouraged our every move. When we were down on our luck, you all were there to pick us up and piece us back together. You have helped us stand strong, proud and journey into this noble career that we believe is truly a righteous calling. I know it must have been quite the struggle to raise these young men and women. I have been with them for 7 months 7 days 9 hours 14 minutes and 32 seconds and I now have a legitimate excuse for early onset of male pattern baldness. I want to thank you all for helping mold the future guardians of our city. I take great honor in welcoming my fellow brothers and sisters in blue as part of my new family.

As we venture into this new world, we will surely remember the life that we used to lead and where we learned and played before the academy. Some of us were raised in the inner city, others in smaller cities, suburbs and even other states. Some of us have a background in restaurant management, others have prior law enforcement experience, corrections, science, or have held other corporate positions. We have shown that we are indeed a diverse group of individuals. Our time together did challenge our morale. At times we were divided into smaller groups and we were subjected to constant leadership changes with the platoon. These small groups and the leadership changes were frustrating at times and we thought we would never be close to each other.

Fast forward to now and we start to put the pieces together. Looking at the big picture, I can see why events unfolded the way they did. Every aspect of our training proved to have a reason. Being able to have uncomfortable conversations during our lectures primed us to grow thick skin and prepare us to have these same conversations within our community. Dividing us into smaller squads and separating us from each other for periods of time was necessary. This taught us that we are able to bridge the gaps in any setting similar to what we will be facing in our community. Leadership changes allowed us all to have an opportunity to speak out, sharpen our command presence and lead others.

The community can expect that each one of us will respond to every call using procedural justice. We will remain unbiased by not taking sides, explaining and giving others a voice, being transparent in everything we do and finally, being fair. We will respond with care and empathy when dealing with our youth. We understand the value and importance of using all available resources to build healthier and safer neighborhoods. We will take on the challenge of becoming COPS, which stands for Community Oriented Police officers.

Class 141, look to your left and right. These people are your keepers. Although we may not always get along, remember everything that we have went through and what challenges we will face in the future. Remember the bond that we share and never take anyone here in this room for granted. You’ll never know when you may be called upon to help someone in their time of need or when they may need to do the same for you. Always remember to protect yourself first. It is never an option to leave your family alone. We must all come home to be that husband, wife, mother, father, brother or sister that our families need us to be.

No matter where you go or who you encounter, people are always counting on you. We are the generation of police that will get it right – without a doubt. 141. Second to none.”

Watch the Jan. 18 141st Cleveland Police Academy Graduation here: