Badge blessing reflects new era for juvenile justice department

lfabian@macon.comMarch 20, 2014 

FORSYTH -- Georgia’s Juvenile Justice Commissioner believes in praying over every decision.

So when Avery Niles put his officers in new uniforms and designed new badges, he called on the department chaplain to bless the badges in a pinning ceremony.

“I believe if you’re going to do something of true magnitude, you should have God on your side and let him guide your footsteps along the way,” said Niles, who has been in office nearly two years. “A lot of times, people leave God out of their day-in and day-out, but I just want to make sure we lay out our priorities.”

Representatives from the state’s 25 Regional Youth Development Centers and Youth Development Campuses gathered Thursday afternoon at the Department of Corrections headquarters at the old Tift College campus in Forsyth.

Chaplain Danny Horne gave the invocation in Roberts Chapel and asked God’s blessing on the badges and those who wear them.

“These badges represent these officers who have committed themselves to put their lives on the line daily to keep Georgia communities safe,” Horne prayed.

The small, metal shields symbolize the higher principles of excellence, integrity and the safety, stability and good order of the state, Horne said.

The ceremony follows a criminal justice overhaul enacted last year.

“It’s a new beginning and helps to build camaraderie,” said Jim Shuler, the Department of Juvenile Justice’s director of communications.

The department’s assistant commissioner, Mark Sexton, told the audience the uniforms, which are different colors for different missions in the organization, already add increased professionalism.

“When you put that uniform on, you should have a sense of pride,” Sexton said.

Six members of Macon’s juvenile justice team received the badges that will be distributed to the rest of the staff.

Niles pinned a new badge on the blue shirt of Rhonda Byrd, who’s been working at the Macon Youth Development Campus for 15 years.

“I think it was so awesome,” Byrd said of the ceremony. “It makes you more proud and makes you more honorable.”

Her boss, YDC Director Debbie Blasingame was looking forward to presenting the rest of the staff badges herself.

“It’s a symbol of official authority, and it’s a day of pride for the Department of Juvenile Justice,” Blasingame said.

Macon Regional Youth Development Center Director Jannette Nihles also picked up badges for her employees.

“This is another way to impress on them the authority they already have and be prideful in the uniform,” Nihles said.

Macon RYDC Officer Diana Plummer said the gathering was a reminder of what a special privilege it is to serve.

“You get to work firsthand with the future,” she said. “Molding (young people) into law abiding citizens.”

To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.

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