BRADENTON BEACH – Nineteen-year-old Devon Straight is Bradenton Beach’s newest police officer.
He was sworn in on Thursday morning, Nov. 15, then introduced to the City Commission at its noon meeting. He began his field training this weekend.
Devon is the grandson of former City Commissioner Ed Straight. He’s also the youngest officer hired during Police Chief Sam Speciale’s 30-plus-year tenure with the city.
When introducing Devon to the commission, Speciale said, “When I first got here everybody said to me, ‘You’re Joe Speciale’s son.’ It took a lot of years for someone to go up to him and say, ‘You’re Sam Speciale’s dad.’ Devon grew up in the shadow of Mr. Straight – a commissioner, a sheriff’s deputy, EMS chief and all that – and people will say, ‘You’re Ed Straight’s grandson.’ After a few years, he’ll be driving around and they’ll say, ‘Hey Ed, aren’t you Devon’s grandfather?’ He’ll be driving car #2, one of the new SUVs, so when you see him driving around wave to him.”
Mayor John Chappie joked that Devon might stick around long enough to be the police chief someday.
Devon has spent much of his life thus far working with his grandparents, Ed and Gail Straight, rescuing and caring for injured, sick and displaced wildlife at the Bradenton Beach-based Wildlife Inc. Education and Rehabilitation Center.
“I couldn’t ask for a better place to work, right on the beach. I already know most everybody in the community from my work with Wildlife Inc. I’m proud to serve in a different capacity. I spent my life saving animals, now I get to use my talents to save peoples’ lives,” Devon said of his new job with the police department.
He received his law enforcement training at the Manatee Technical College. He started in January and graduated in June.
When asked why he wanted to be a police officer, Devon said, “I’m following my grandfather’s footsteps. He was a reserve sheriff’s deputy for Manatee County. Ever since then he’s inspired me and I thought it was the coolest job. To be in a uniform and go out and saves lives has always been my dream.”
Devon will continue to volunteer at Wildlife Inc. as his new work schedule allows.
“I’m sure my days off will go to good use with them,” he said.
“We’re very proud of him,” Ed said. “Considering all the different things that can happen to kids and grandkids nowadays, working with the wildlife helped him stay on the right track. He got the Anne Frank Humanitarian Award from Bayshore High School during his junior year for his work with the wildlife.
“I told him to do his best at the academy because people are always going to look back on how well you did with your training. We’re proud that he came really close to coming in first at the academy. He missed it by just a few points. On the state board exam he did get the highest score in his class. His class started out with 24 people and ended up with 12 people graduating, so it was a tough class to make it through. His teacher said, ‘He’s not a quitter,’ so we’re proud of him,” Ed said.
When asked about the hiring, Speciale said, “We looked at our applications and we thought it would be good to have a new guy right out of the academy.”