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The Journal Gazette

  • Jamie Duffy | The Journal Gazette Don Thang shakes the hand of her husband, Hau Thang, after he is sworn in as a Fort Wayne police officer. He is one of the first two Burmese officers to be sworn in by the department.

  • Jamie Duffy | The Journal Gazette Elliott McGill gets some help Thursday from his mother, Chelsea McGill, as he pins the badge on the uniform of his father, Matthew McGill, at the 63rd recruit class graduation ceremony.

  • Jamie Duffy | The Journal Gazette Lexie Fretz pins the badge on husband Joshua Fretz at the 63rd Recruit Class Graduation Ceremony on Thursday.

  • Jamie Duffy | The Journal Gazette New police officer Stephanie Reid gets a hug from her boyfriend, Jason Durnell, once he pinned on her badge at the 63rd Recruit Class Graduation Ceremony for the Fort Wayne Police Department.

Friday, June 29, 2018 1:00 am

2 Burmese officers join city police force, a first

JAMIE DUFFY | The Journal Gazette

The Fort Wayne Police Department swore in two Burmese recruits for the first time at its 63rd recruit class graduation ceremony Thursday.

The ceremony held at IPFW's Rhinehart Music Hall attracted more than 200 law enforcement, family and friends to welcome the 21 recruits.

The number of Fort Wayne police officers now stands at 473, the target number of officers the department needs, according to Chief Steve Reed.

Although Reed and Assistant Chief Karl Niblick couldn't say whether the class was the most diverse demographically, they agreed the class represents a number of Fort Wayne communities.

Capt. Scott W. Berning said in addition to the two Burmese men, recruits included one black female police officer, three who speak Spanish and two white female officers.

Berning and other speakers – Mayor Tom Henry and Paul Whitesell, the executive director of the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy – spoke about the grueling training the officers have undergone since early February.

In the end, the class scored an overall test score of 92.58 percent, slightly higher than last year's class of 26 new officers, who scored an overall 92 percent, Berning said.

Besides academics, each recruit had to be able to do 50 situps in one minute, 45 pushups in one minute, jump vertically 20 inches or higher, run the 300-meter dash in 50 seconds or less and run 11/2 miles in 111/2 minutes or less.

The academic award went to Drew Wheeler, whose overall test score average was 95.9 percent. Michael Diaz was awarded the Top Gun Award; Anthony Krock set recruit records in pushups and the 11/2-mile run and received the Physical Fitness Award; and Kaitlyn Thomas set a female recruit record for 80 pushups in one minute, Berning said.

Don Thang, wife of Burmese recruit Hau L. Thang, brought her three young children to the ceremony and took 4-year-old Zoen Spurgeon Thang and infant Thangkhawn Macarthur Thang on stage to pin her husband's new police badge onto his uniform. Their sister Niangit Kim was too shy to go up on stage.

Hau Thang was surrounded by family after the ceremony. His family came directly from Myanmar, whereas his wife came from a refugee camp in Malaysia, they said.

“I was happy for him,” Don Thang said. “Whatever he wants to do.”

Stephanie Reid, a 23-year-old Snider High School graduate, was pinned by her boyfriend, Jason Durnell.

“It's what I always wanted to do when I was little,” said Reid, who will finish her criminal justice degree at Purdue Fort Wayne.

She may be getting married soon, too. “I'm probably going to propose soon,” Durnell said. “We've been looking at rings.”

During the ceremony, the recruits sat motionless, legs apart with their hands on their knees.

“You're asked to put your life in front of others,” Reed told them. “And for that, we're always in gratitude.”