Slowly but surely, the Mount Airy Police Department is getting back to full strength, with two more officers joining the force Wednesday afternoon.
Kevin S. Crane and Daniel Jacob Jones were sworn in during a brief ceremony in council chambers of the Municipal Building, attended by their relatives, city elected officials and a large contingent of police department members. It was climaxed with badges being pinned to their uniforms.
“You’re going to be running toward the danger that I run away from,” Commissioner Shirley Brinkley told Crane and Jones during remarks by officials afterward.
With their addition, the police department is now six members short of its full capacity of sworn officers, 41, according to Chief Dale Watson. But he said three more individuals now are undergoing training and their arrival will cut that deficit in half.
The department recently launched an incentive program aimed at increasing the applicant ranks by furnishing prospective officers’ Basic Law Enforcement Training costs and also paying them a stipend as temporary city employees while enrolled. In exchange, they must commit to at least two years’ employment with the Mount Airy Police Department.
Crane and Jones seemed excited Wednesday about joining the force.
“I appreciate the opportunity and look forward to serving the PD,” Crane told the gathering after taking the oath of office and receiving his badge.
Crane, 41, has 12 years of previous law enforcement experience as a member of the King Police Department. He is from Wilkes County, a graduate of Wilkes Central High School and Surry Community College.
“I’m excited to start working and helping the community,” said Jones, 22, who also is from Wilkes County. He graduated from West Wilkes High School and Appalachian State University with a degree in criminal justice.
In addition to comments by Brinkley, Commissioner Steve Yokeley reminded the two new officers of the important role they will fill.
“There’s nothing more important than having a safe community, and Kevin and Daniel, I know you are going to be a part of that,” Yokeley said.
Crane and Jones also were reminded of the important mission they are taking on, not only involving the enforcing of laws but being a friend to the community.
“You are servants — you’re going to serve the public,” said Gray Shelton, a retired city detective who is now police chaplain.
It was acknowledged Wednesday afternoon that law enforcement work can be difficult at times, but Crane and Jones were assured that they will have plenty of backup.
“Welcome to our family,” Commissioner Jim Armbrister, a retired city officer, told the pair. “And our police department is its own family.”
That was echoed by City Manager Barbara Jones. “Welcome to the team,” she said to Crane and Jones.
Watson, the police chief, said the two exemplify the high standards the Mount Airy Police Department has established, which sometimes contributes to its manpower shortage.
“I expect good things from both of you,” he said.
“We are blessed to have a great police force,” Mayor David Rowe said Wednesday, explaining that this opinion has been bolstered by his recent enrollment in the Mount Airy Citizens Police Academy.
Capt. Alan Freeman said the department will be facing some challenges in the coming years with the retirements of key members, and new arrivals such as Crane and Jones will help offset that by learning the ropes.
“We need you both,” Freeman said.
“You are the future.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.