Officer Blake Fairclough, badge No. 550.
"That’s a good number. 550. I like that," he said.
His face lit up as he looked down at the shiny Chandler police badge pinned to his chest just minutes earlier. Friends surrounded him to see it for themselves.
On Friday night, the 22-year-old realized his childhood dream when he stood on stage with 33 other recruits, raised his right hand and took the oath of a police officer.
"He really persisted, never gave up," said his father, Colin Fairclough. "We’re very proud of him."
"It’s all he wanted to do," his mother, Helen Fairclough, added.
The Tribune has followed Blake Fairclough through the testing process to the rigors of the 16-week Arizona Law Enforcement Academy. He was the only recruit out of 145 to make it.
The Tribune will keep up with him as he experiences the reality of life on the streets.
"It hasn’t quite sunk in yet," Fairclough said, glancing at his badge again.
In a quiet moment between photos and congratulations, Fairclough shook hands with his recruit training officers, this time as an equal.
"There is still a lot of training to go," recruit training officer Kris Oldenburg advised him. "It’s more stressful than this. It’s for real."
Phoenix police Cmdr. Eric Hailey shared his wisdom in a speech to the new officers.
"Maintain relationships with people outside of law enforcement. If you limit your entire focus on law enforcement, cynicism may become the mindset at both home and work," Hailey advised. "And keep going to the gym."
Mesa officer Lisa Rigsby, who befriended Fairclough a few years ago when they both worked security at Mesa Community College football games, proudly presented him with a pocket flashlight that will no doubt come in handy.
"I can’t wait until we get a call together," Rigsby, a 10-year veteran, said. "He so desperately wanted this, and he’ll be good at it."