|Officer Thomas Burke, left, and Officer Marc Johnson: The new recruits.|
By CAROL ROBIDOUX
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Ponch and Jon have nothing on Derry Police Department's newest recruits.
Officer Marc Johnson and Officer Thomas Burke IV were sworn in yesterday during a brief ceremony at the police station.
Their journey to this point actually has the makings of a “CHiPS” prequel – an unlikely story of two young guys growing up in Manchester who become fast friends while attending Memorial High School together. Although they were one year apart, both were outstanding athletes with similar easy-going personalities and strong moral fiber.
Johnson, 22, admits he was actually influenced as a kid by watching reruns of the '70s police drama,“CHiPS,” featuring California Highway Patrol Officers “Ponch” Poncherello and Jon Baker.
His childhood dream of becoming a police officer actually settled in during junior high school and carried him through high school all the way to Plymouth State University, where he graduated with a degree in criminal justice this year.
Burke, 21, traces his interest in police work back to his dad, retired Bedford Police Capt. Thomas Burke III.
“As early as I can remember I was hanging around the station with my dad. I just always knew that it was what I wanted to do,” said Burke, who earned his associate's degree in criminal justice from New Hampshire Institute of Technology, and is currently working toward his bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Granite State College.
“I guess we both knew that the other was interested in a career in law enforcement, but we went to different colleges after high school,” said Johnson. “We didn't realize we'd both applied for this job until we both showed up for the test.”
Burke yesterday said he was ecstatic when he learned that he and Johnson would be sworn in together.
“It's pretty awesome,” said Burke. “It feels kind of like destiny.”
Yesterday both Burke and Johnson were flanked by a fleet of family and friends who collectively captured dozens of Kodak moments during the ceremony and after, in various family configurations.
“Let's get one with Ben,” said Burke, calling over another longtime friend, Ben Dion, a fellow Memorial graduate who has known both Burke and Johnson for years.
“I've known Tom since junior high,” said Dion, who started his first job student teaching in Londonderry High School yesterday – finishing just in time to make it over for the swearing in ceremony. “I heard that Tom made it in. Then I heard Marc made it, too. It couldn't have worked out better.”