BRADENTON -- Brooke Pellegrine smiled widely after returning to her seat in the Bradenton's City Council chambers. The 24-year-old Bradenton resident and five others were sworn in as new officers with the Bradenton Police Department.
"I'm very, very happy. I'm proud to be able to serve with the city of Bradenton," Pellegrine said. "I couldn't wish for anything else."
Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston presided over the 5 p.m. Wednesday ceremony
involving Pellegrine; Matthew Caradimos, 26, of Bradenton; Samuell Mason Jr., 21, of Palmetto; Jacob Robison, 34, of Parrish; Joshua Sanchez, 26, of Parrish; and Ryan Welch, 26, of Bradenton.
Three members of the BPD also were promoted: detective Sgt. Valorie Shoates, 45, of Bradenton, to lieutenant; and master patrol officers Joseph Kelly, 35, of Bradenton, and Jose Santos, 55, of Bradenton, both to sergeant.
Pellegrine pursued a culinary career before deciding on law enforcement.
"I decided it wasn't for me and then -- as soon as I started pursuing law enforcement -- I fell in love and it became a passion," she said. Pellegrine said she searched for a career that would work well with her independent personality and felt law enforcement was a good fit. She said she looks forward to making crime rates go down by working with the public.
"Trying, with my presence, to make people feel better and actually look different at officers rather than how they are now," she added.
Standing with microphone in hand in front of the seated officers and their family members, Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski said the agency handpicks every member.
"We picked them because of not only their schoolwork and their graduation from the police academy, but because of their ethics and we think that they will serve the public -- especially the citizens of Bradenton -- very well," Radzilowski said. "People don't realize the dangers that goes on in and out, day and night, out on the streets with these young officers."
The police chief encouraged family members to go on ride-alongs with an officer.
"You need to see what's going on so you can be an advocate for police -- an advocate to keep your neighborhood safe," Radzilowski said. "We can't do this alone. We're all in this together."
After the swearing-in ceremony, Robison stood with his wife, Bonnie Robison, and their family. Wednesday marked the beginning of a new career for Robison, who spent the last 13 years installing air conditioning. "My brother's a police officer in Illinois. He's been a police officer for 19 years and I got tired of crawling in attics," Robison said. "It's (law enforcement) something I've always wanted to do."
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.