LYNCHBURG, Va. – Eight new officers were sworn into the Lynchburg police Thursday.
Cheianne Kirkland said this is a long time coming.
“My dream has been to get to the road, and here I am,” said Kirkland.
It’s a road the Kirkland family’s traveled before.
Kirkland is a third-generation law enforcement officer, following her father and her grandmother who graduated with the first class from the Central Virginia Criminal Justice Academy.
“My grandma was with Lynchburg Police Department as well; so to be able to follow in her footsteps at the same department is huge for me,” said Kirkland.
But this comes as recruitment appears to be taking a step back.
Police Chief Ryan Zuidema says while these eight graduates help a staffing shortage, LPD is still short 16 officers.
“[The vacancy is] definitely higher, historically, than we’ve seen in quite some time. We needed to hire 20 officers for this academy that starts in a couple of weeks. We were able to hire four, unfortunately,” said Zuidema.
A recent uptick in crime, both locally and nationwide, has had an impact.
During the ceremony, Zuidema told his new officers that building relationships is critical in Lynchburg.
“You’ve got to get to know the residents of this community, and that’s not on a 911 call. So, it’s really simple; I challenge you to introduce yourself to one person you don’t know in this community each shift you work,” said Zuidema.
Kirkland is up for the challenge.
“I’d like to change the negative outlook on law enforcement. I want to be a positive influence when I roll up on scene. I want people to be like, ‘Oh awesome, Officer Kirkland’s here;’ and not, ‘Oh gosh, the cops are here,” said Kirkland.
By doing so, she hopes future officers will follow in her footsteps.