SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. – – 16 recruits joined the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday night during a graduation ceremony at Golden Gate Cathedral.

22-year-old deputy Colin McPherson said he’s ready to serve after he and the other new deputies spent six month in the training academy.

“It feels like an honor and a privilege mostly,” he said.

He recognizes this is one of the most violent areas in the country but feels prepared for whatever challenges are ahead.

“The training was so extensive and so long that I do feel mentally and physically prepared for the challenge,” McPherson said. “I grew up in Memphis, grew up in Collierville. I love my community, love the people in it and I think the majority of people here like law enforcement and want a safer community. So, I wanted the ability to provide that.”

The new deputies also face other challenges including the pandemic and social unrest.

The new class brings the total number of deputies on the force to roughly 700.

“Every little bit helps. We’re having retirements, people leaving, reaching their retirement age… So, this 16 we’re very happy to get,” Sheriff Floyd Bonner said. “We have a huge gap right now and we’re trying to catch up.”

The new deputies will now undergo three months of training in the field before they become full-fledged patrolmen.