MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Eight young men and women can now call themselves Shelby County Corrections officers after the sheriff’s office graduated their 87th class.

Each graduate accepted their badge with a smile and cheers from the crowd. After an 11-week training program,  they feel confident that they have the tools they need to do the job and do it well. 

“It’s a big opportunity,” said graduate James Hines. “It’s another step up in my career.”

The addition of these eight comes just one day after nine officers in the department were indicted in the death of Gershun Freeman. Two of them are charged with murder after Freeman died in jail custody last October. 

“Look on your right sleeve, look down there,” said Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner. “What’s on there, your patch? That’s the brand of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. And I’ll tell each and every one of you, do nothing, do absolutely nothing to stain our brand.” 

At Thursday night’s graduation, Bonner warned the graduates of the challenges that can come with the job but applauded the 11-week training program, which he says is the best in the state.

 And while he said Wednesday that he stands with the officers who are facing charges in the Freeman case, he urges the new graduates to always fall back on what they’ve learned leading into today. 

“That’s what I told them. Rely on your training, rely on your training. That’s what you must do,” Bonner said. “This is the best training academy in the state, and if you rely on your training, treat people right, you’re going to be fine in this career.”

As they approach the next chapter, they say that’s exactly what they plan to do. 

“I’m going to go in with a positive mindset and we’re going to do what we have to do and follow the policy,” Hines said.

The nine officers are currently suspended from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office but have not been fired.