Many families have a special tradition they enjoy. Maybe it’s a yearly camping trip or a trip to the beach. Traditions often instill pride in one’s family.
The same is true at the Department of Criminal Justice Training. When he arrived in May 2016, DOCJT Commissioner Mark Filburn charged many of his staff members to come up with traditions that would help reinforce the agency’s mission.
“All the things we teach in the classroom are critical for their development as law enforcement officers,” Filburn said. “What’s equally as important is we teach them the culture of our profession. They are becoming a part of our family and being a part of the family means treating everyone with dignity and respect.”
Much effort goes into seeing a class make it to graduation. There are many hours of training and many people responsible for a recruit’s successful graduation.
Filburn said the honor walk provides a means for instructors and DOCJT support staff to congratulate a graduating class and wish the class members well.
“They didn’t have an opportunity to do that (in the past) because they are training the next class,” Filburn said. “So the idea was to have all of the classes take a 10-minute break and walk downstairs and line the halls from the dorms to my office where the recruits cross the blue or gold line for the first time.”
As the recruits walk down the halls, staff members and those at DOCJT for in-service training applaud their accomplishment as they welcome the class members into the law enforcement and dispatch family.
Technical Services Section Supervisor Eric A. Garner leads the way playing the bagpipes, which adds a nice touch to the ceremony, Filburn said.
“I am a big fan of the bagpipes,” he said. “Eric brings a more professional and ceremonial touch to everything we do. He does an outstanding job in leading us in the honor walk and graduation. It brings another level of professionalism and ceremonial value to it.”
Garner, who is a member of the Lexington-based Kentucky United Pipes and Drums, has been providing the service for the past year. He said it’s a great way to honor the profession.
“It’s an honor for me because I am able to give back to the recruits and law enforcement,” he said.
Starting in the second half of 2016, each new law enforcement recruit and public safety dispatcher class began carrying class flags. A member of the class chosen by his or her classmates carries the flag, and it is carried everywhere the class goes each day.
Filburn said the flag is a means of pride for each class and is to be respected by other classes and DOCJT staff, alike.
“We’re trying to build teamwork throughout the academies to where we are all working as a group,” Filburn said.
The class flag is similar to military guidons, Filburn said.
“Ours is not exactly a military guidon,” he said. “Whereas the military challenges each other with flags, the flag is used to let the classes know that there is something more important than them.”
Filburn added that the class flags help in the mentoring process as senior classes show the junior classes the ins and outs of daily life and training. Each flag has the class number on it. Once the class graduates, the flag is framed with the class photo and roster and hung in the walkway between the dorm and classrooms.
“I’ve seen our senior class go out and mentor the junior classes on how to march and perform for their class ceremony we have every Friday,” the commissioner said. “It helps build teamwork.”
That teamwork is evident in another challenge, as recruits keep the Kentucky Law Enforcement Memorial monument clean.
“Recruit classes are challenged to honor the memorial wall and to keep it clean and looking nice while they are here,” Filburn said. “They go out on their own time and make sure the wall is presentable each and every day.”
Pledge of Allegiance
The Pledge of Allegiance is something most everyone learned as a child. Each day before recruits and in-service students begin their days, they now recite the pledge.
Filburn brought this tradition in from a previous stop in his long law enforcement career.
“When I was on a SWAT team, I attended a training at a small department out-of-state,” Filburn said. “We were in a classroom and they had us stand up to say the pledge. I thought, ‘Man, this is the way to start a day of training. It put a different emphasis on training and reminded us of what we are all about and what we’re about to do.”
From that time on, Filburn decided to start each class he taught with the pledge and carried it over to DOCJT as the agency purchased an American and Kentucky flag for each classroom. Every day now at 8 a.m., the training day begins with the Pledge of Allegiance.
These two words are now commonplace in the halls and classrooms at DOCJT.
Filburn said the verbal challenge is both simple and meaningful, and packs a powerful message.
“We (instructors and staff) say ‘Honor’ and they (recruits) say ‘Commitment,’” he said. “That is to remind them that there are two critical aspects of our profession. Honor is the way we conduct ourselves and Commitment is what we’ve made to the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”
From the classroom to the entrance of the main lobby, signs of tradition now permeate throughout DOCJT.
“Our Communication Office organized a committee to redesign the entry way of our main lobby,” Filburn said. “When you walk into our lobby, you’re faced with ‘Through these halls walk the bravest men and women of the Commonwealth.’ That is to remind new officers and current law enforcement officers of who they are and what they represent.”
Committee co-chair Kelly Foreman said the task of designing the Funderburk lobby was meaningful, as it is most often the first look people get of DOCJT.
“Commissioner Filburn had a vision that when people walked through our doors, they would understand the agency's mission,” Foreman said. “Careful attention was paid to details around the room. For example, the blue line that encompasses the room represents the thin blue line of law enforcement. Beneath it is a gold line, representing dispatchers and their support of first responders. The large canvas portraits on the wall beneath the words, 'honor' and 'commitment' represent the different types of clients we serve. Red roses in the tall floor vases honor our fallen officers. Even a small bowl of blown-glass globes on the coffee table each are colors representing the different uniforms Kentucky peace officers wear.”
These relatively new traditions have inspired and brought a sense of family to staff members and recruits alike, Filburn said, adding that they were staff generated and the feedback has been positive.
“Most of these traditions were not my ideas,” he said. “They came from my staff who came up with them in the various committees we put together.”
Through the efforts of the various committee members, the traditions aid in promoting the agency's core values and promotes esprit de corps among Kentucky’s law enforcement and public safety dispatch members who pass through the halls of DOCJT.