“My initial training consisted of a couple of days riding around with someone,” Madison County Sheriff Vern Hjorth said. “And then they gave me a thick book of statutes and told me to go to work.”
Hjorth was the keynote speaker Friday at the graduation ceremony for the 188th class of the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center here.
Forty-five people received certification for passing the 16-week basic training course designed to give the graduates the necessary skills knowledge to effectively function as a law enforcement officer in Nebraska.
Hjorth said it was a challenge to decide what to say in his speech to the graduates because he knew the center’s course instructors had given them everything they needed to know throughout the 16-week program.
Hjorth said he received his answer earlier this week as he related a story about running into a judge Monday who gave him some sage advice.
“The judge said he recently had to dismiss a case for a driving under the influence charge. The only reason the charge was thrown out was because the arresting officer couldn’t communicate to the judge the probable cause for pulling the offending driver over in the first place,” Hjorth said.
So the sheriff appealed to the new officers to put down their cell phones and quit texting all the time.
“It’s time to get back out there and meet the people face-to-face,” he said. “When you stop to get gas or stop at a public function — stop and say hello to individuals. Talk to them and ask them how they are doing.”
There are so many different technological communication devices available today that people tend to forget about the most basic communication of talking directly to someone, he added.
“We also need to remember we are not at war with the public,” the 44-year law enforcement veteran said. “We are here to serve the public.”
Graduates receiving certification Friday included seven individuals from five Northeast Nebraska law enforcement agencies.
Two of the new officers were from the Norfolk Police Division, two were from the Madison County Sheriff’s Department and there was one each from the Thurston County Sheriff’s Department, Brown County Sheriff’s Department and Wheeler County Sheriff’s Department.
Hjorth saved perhaps his best advice for last in his address.
“In your career you will see some things you will not be able to handle,” he said. “Go to your church or your place of faith and sit and think about it for 15 to 20 minutes. Pretty soon you will feel this hand on your back comforting you and helping you.
“Don’t turn around. There won’t be anyone standing there, but something is there to help you along.”