Graduates of the Savannah Technical College Peace Officer Academy honored the memory of one of Richmond Hill’s finest Friday morning at Stegman Auditorium on Savannah Tech’s campus.
The 12 members of the Lt. Dana Strickland cohort — named after the RHPD detective who died of pancreatic cancer in February — gave Strickland’s wife a challenge coin as a token of their respect during a ceremony marking the officers’ completion of the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Basic Law Enforcement Training Course
Graduate Skylar Strickland called the coin a “symbol of the unbreakable bond of dedication and allegiance between law-enforcement officers and military personnel.”
“Each graduating class of the Peace Officer Academy at Savannah Tech has stabled the tradition of honoring a fallen officer by dedicating a challenge coin in his or her memory. The class of 2014-15 has chosen to honor Lt. Dana Strickland of the Richmond Hill Police Department,” he said.
Lt. Strickland’s wife, Bernadette, accepted the coin with Strickland’s mother, Jowanna Strickland; stepchildren, Sydney Weis and Michael Ward; and granddaughter, Hannah Weis, standing nearby.
“My husband would be very proud of all you students,” Bernadette Strickland told the graduates. “Just be careful out there, and watch each other’s back. Thank you very much.”
A moment later, Richmond Hill Police Chief Billy Reynolds presented Strickland with her husband’s service revolver, framed in a wood and glass case.
“We recently traded in our weapons to a company, and any of the officers who wanted to buy theirs could buy them back from the company,” Reynolds said afterward. “Some did, and all the guys raised the money and bought his weapon back. The city didn’t do that, the guys did it. They all respected Dana.”
Earlier, Reynolds almost choked up as he thanked the graduating class for honoring Strickland, who rose to become the city’s top investigator.
“He was a friend of ours for many years,” Reynolds said. “It’s been pretty hard for all of us, but I want to thank you for recognizing the importance of this individual.”
Reynolds described Strickland as “one of those characters that everyone just knew when Dana was around,” he said. “He kept it lively, he loved his family, he really liked people and he was always willing to help anyone he could. He was just a genuine person.”
Lt. Jason Sakelarios joined the Richmond Hill Police Department at the same time as Strickland and called him “good friend.”
“We both got hired at the same time, came up through the department together, and he was always there for me when I needed him,” he said.
Nearly a dozen RHPD officers also attended the ceremony.
The new graduates, 10 of whom already have been hired by area departments, heard speeches from a number of officials before getting their certificates, signaling the end of an 18-week course that qualified them as state-certified peace officers.