Twenty-five Memphis Police Department retirees who left the force on Friday represented more than 700 years of combined experience.
The 25 men and women ranged from civilian to deputy director. They were all presented with retirement certificates at the police training academy.
Many started on foot patrol in the downtown area and worked up to headquarters. While these men and women who have served between 25 and 41 years earn the right to move on, the question arises, who will follow in their steps?
Police Director Toney Armstrong and the department's top brass were among those who paid homage to 25 men and women who logged years of service starting from the bottom up. However, they leave a department that's in a critical fight to restore public trust.
"The selfish part of you, you sure hate, especially as a director. You sure hate to see that amount of experience and wisdom walk out the door," Director Armstrong said.
No doubt, Armstrong's statement was more than just paying dutiful lip service to a group of veteran officers who'd collectively logged more than 700 years of service dating back as far as 1972. It comes at a tumultuous time when daily headlines have been made of current officers being arrested or involved in controversial shootings that continue put the image of the department under the microscope of public scrutiny.
"Take take that oath and you put this gun on and pin this badge on, you have to come to the realization that I might very well possibly be put in the situation where I might have to discharge my firearm in the performance of my duties and you hope it doesn't result in someone losing their life," Director Armstrong said.
"We don't necessarily get the candidates that are interested in being in law enforcement for all the right reasons," Director Armstrong added. "We get candidates now that, we get a mixture of those that do it for the right reasons as well as those that do it for employment."
But, Friday's event reminded us these retirees were people who invested most of their lives in trying to establish public trust in local law enforcement. While resignation or mental burnout has now lowered the average Memphis police officer's career to around seven years, why didn't these veteran cops not succumb to the troubles and temptations over decades on the job?
"Back in our day, we had to listen to our supervisors and our elder statesmen as police officers and we listened," said newly retired Capt. Sampson Pryor. "The young people are going to run this place someday and the better they are or the better they become, the better the city of Memphis will be as far as protection is concerned."