A class of new Fayette County Detention Center officers graduated with a little more pomp and circumstance than usual at a ceremony Friday at the Kentucky Theatre.
It was the first time the jail has held a graduation ceremony at the historic theater, which is typically where the Division of Police holds its graduations.
The decision to hold the event there was less about pomp and more about necessity, officials said. The class of 37 recruits and their families simply wouldn't have fit in the conference room at the jail on Old Frankfort Circle, where graduations have previously been held.
Besides, that room was unavailable because it was being set up as a classroom for another group of recruits scheduled to begin training Monday, jail spokeswoman Sgt. Jennifer Taylor said. The city has hired new classes back to back to make up for staffing shortages that have resulted in mandatory overtime for most corrections officers.
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Still, the venue was a hit for those who watched their loved ones embark on their new careers.
"It was nice to have it here in a part of downtown history," said Vera Gillis, 47, whose son, Markeith, was one of the graduates.
Gillis said the last time she was in the theater was when she was a teenager. She recalled seeing the movie Shaft there.
"It looks just like it did back then," she said.
Public Safety Commissioner Clay Mason and jail director Rodney Ballard said it was nice to have the graduation at the theater, but they didn't know whether smaller classes would use the venue in the future.
"I would like to," Mason said. "I think it elevates the professionalism of the organization."
Ballard said the location allowed officials to open the ceremony to the public.
"We want to be part of the community," he said. "We want to open our doors to the public so they can share in our success."
Typically, there are about 25 graduates in a class, which easily fit in the detention center's conference room. In the past, when classes were too large to fit in the conference room, the ceremony was held in the ballroom at the government center, which is now the office of Mayor Jim Gray and his staff.
The new recruits went through six weeks of classroom training and four weeks of hands-on training under the supervision of veteran officers, Capt. Jeff Carter said.
They will begin working on their own immediately, he said, although they are encouraged to ask for help from their trainers and command staff while they get the hang of things.
Communication is important, he said, in a job as unpredictable as community corrections.
"In our career, you never have seen everything. You see something new every day," Carter said. "Informally, our doors are always open."