Before a standing-room-only audience June 5, Police Chief Mike Gentry presented four recruits with shiny, new police badges.

“In this line of work, we talk about the badge a lot because it’s important to who we are,” Gentry said. “It’s shaped like a shield, like the knights of old used to carry. We wear it over our left breast, symbolically, not only protect us from assaults, but to protect the integrity of our hearts.”

The badge, a pretty adornment to the navy blue uniform, will get dinged up, scratched or dull over time.

“It will though, never be tarnished,” Gentry said. “It’s something that has meaning to us and to everyone who has ever worn it. It’s more than just a nice adornment. Wear it with pride and dignity.”

As Gentry recited the oath, the new recruits raised their right hands and swore to faithfully execute the job of a police officer.

“Today is a benchmark in your careers,” Gentry said. “You make the decision to do the job right from the start and you never lay down your burden to do that. People literally depend on us.”

Pinned by his wife, 1st Lt. Stephanie Ritter, Jeremy Ritter, 26, began working with the department as a call-taker a year ago.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the city and my co-workers and decided I wanted to join the police side,” he said.

Larry Hunter, 24, grew up in Harker Heights.

“My family and friends are here and I wanted to protect them,” he said. “What’s a better way to protect them and the city that I grew up in than being a police officer?”

After serving 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, both active and in the Reserves, Julian Kurz, 43, said he still wanted to serve.

“I wanted to make a difference in the community,” he said about why he decided to switch uniforms.

Before becoming an officer, John Howell, 32, worked for the prison system, served in the U.S. Army for 4½ years and in the U.S. Air Force for six years.

“I’ve always had an interest in serving people and law enforcement,” he said. “Working in the prisons sparked my interest and helped me take the final step.”

All four officers graduated from the Temple College Police Academy and are all in the process of completing their field training.

Contact Vanessa Lynch at or 254-501-7567.

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