SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) -- The newest class of jail guards will soon be on the job in Santa Clara County. They graduated on Wednesday, just four weeks after three guards were accused of killing an inmate at the county jail.
That inmate's death led to quick changes in how this new group of recruits was trained.
The newest 51 corrections deputies for Santa Clara, San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties marched into their graduation ceremony in San Jose.
The star of the day knows the spotlight well. Voted class president by his peers, Courtney Bryan played football for the Miami Dolphins. He spoke for the graduates.
"I am proud to have grown with them. Not only as recruits, but as a family," said Bryan.
Bryan's mother couldn't be more proud of what he wants to accomplish.
"He is very committed to the community also and youth. So, I think making a difference and he has an impact," said Viera Whye.
But this ceremony had a dark cloud hanging overhead: The death of Santa Clara inmate Michael Tyree on August 27th. He was allegedly beaten to death by three jail guards.
"We have to deal with people with mental health issues. It's reported that Mr. Tyree did have mental health issues," said Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith.
She said starting with this class, the recruits now get almost 40 hours of additional training in dealing with the mentally ill.
"We think that the more training that we can get, the better," said Smith. "In the past, we've done mental health training, but this is the first time that we've put in the crisis intervention training into the academy."
Keynote speaker Judge Stephen Manley emphasized the need to treat the mentally ill more effectively.
"If you can't communicate with them in a way that they can understand, their only reaction to what you say is going to be one that you do not expect," said Manley.
County Supervisor Cindy Chavez says she's confident the changes will help.
"I feel like the department and the county really understand that there's an opportunity here to continue to improve services," said Chavez.
For Santa Clara County, the recruits will be starting their jobs as corrections deputies in two weeks.