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Police and fire

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    Debris and wreckage littered the highway Wednesday as a section of Airport Expressway was closed for the evening after a violent crash left one man dead at the end of a police pursuit.
  • Wheelie leads to collision
    The woman sat on the sidewalk, smothering her face in towels and tissues as three men put their arms around her. Just up the street, amid the destroyed motorcycle and debris littering the road, was her son.
  • Area near I-469, Auburn Road reopens after gas leak
    The roads around Interstate 469 and Auburn Road have been cleared and reopened after a construction crew hit a gas line this morning, requiring patients and staff from two medical buildings to be evacuated for a time, Fort Wayne firefighters said.
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Ben Mikesell | The Journal Gazette
Newly sworn-in Fort Wayne Police Department officer Richard Smith shares an emotional moment with his father, Eddie Smith, who came up from Florida to watch his son graduate Friday at the Public Safety Academy.

FWPD welcomes 15 officers

13 men, 2 women graduate from 60th recruit class

After 20 grueling weeks of physically and mentally draining exercises, including 29,000 sit-ups and 23,000 pull-ups, 15 men and women were named Fort Wayne’s newest police officers.

It wasn’t just the recruits who dedicated and sacrificed throughout the training regiment. Their families had to give up time with loved ones so they could pursue their dreams.

“I know it’s been an ordeal for you, as well,” Public Safety Director Rusty York told the fathers, mothers, sisters and wives in the audience at Friday’s graduation of the 60th recruit class for the Fort Wayne Police Department.

In what York called a momentous evening, the 13 men and two women in the graduating class are now officially sworn officers for the department.

For new officer Richard Smith, the night was made even more special by a visit from Florida by his father, who wanted to bear witness to his son’s achievement.

“I was thinking of him as a baby; … he’s turned into a fine man,” Eddie Smith said of his son, adding that he’s been proud of him throughout his life.

The elder Smith said his visit was a surprise to his son, who didn’t think his father could get time off work for the trip.

As he kneeled onstage so his young daughter, Lyndzie, could pin the new badge to her father’s uniform, it was clear this was a triumph for Richard Smith.

For 13 1/2 years, he worked at one of the city’s Save-A-Lot grocery stores and would talk to officers who frequented the store.

They gave him the nudge he needed to put in his application.

“They apparently saw something in me,” Smith said, adding that like many, he wanted to be a police officer when he was younger but never pursued it.

Now, he’s ready to start a new chapter of his life as he begins patrolling third shift in the city’s southeast quadrant.

Throughout the slew of aerobics, strength training, defensive tactics and more, it’s the running that got to him the most.

“Out of all the workouts, the running was the worst,” Smith said, although the pepper spray was no pleasant experience either.

He becomes the first in his family to enter a career in law enforcement.

After losing many officers to retirements in recent years, the police department wanted to get back up to its full roster of 460 officers.

The City Council approved a tax increase last summer that gave these 15 recruits the chance to don the badge and blue uniform.

Police Chief Garry Hamilton told the audience and graduates the career they chose would not be easy.

“We don’t get thanked for the things we do,” he said, adding that the new officers should make time with their family a priority as much as possible.

“This job will take a toll on your life, … but justice is our cause,” Hamilton said.

cmeyers@jg.net

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