When Gregory Beary’s badge was first pinned onto his Orange County Sheriff’s Office uniform last week, he became the latest Beary to carry on the family tradition of public service and sacrifice.

The Beary name is synonymous with law enforcement in Central Florida, and the family’s roots in the field run four generations deep. So when Greg, who already earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from UCF, graduated from Valencia College’s Criminal Justice Institute last week, it was naturally a family affair.

Dad Richard Beary, chief of UCF Police, was the ceremony’s keynote speaker. Other members of the family joined them on stage to pin on Greg’s badge, a custom for new officers with family in law enforcement.

Of his family’s commitment to protecting and serving, Greg said: “It’s something I’ve gotten used to over time, but I know that other people who aren’t in law enforcement don’t completely understand it.”

Greg was among the 27 recruits to complete the academy, which included nearly 800 hours of academic coursework, physical fitness and other training since September. The morning after his graduation, he started as a patrol deputy at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, where his colleagues include sister Jillian and aunt Noel.

Growing up, Greg and Jillian were no strangers to the sound of police radios or talk about local crime trends, their dad said.

“When you’re a cop, things happen 24/7, so my kids sort of grew up in a patrol car,” said Beary. “They couldn’t help but be drawn to law enforcement.”

That’s how it went for him, too.

“I knew very early on what I wanted to do,” said the chief about following in his father’s and brother’s steps of becoming a police officer in Central Florida. His father, Ray, was the chief of Maitland and Winter Park, and his older brother, Kevin, was the former Orange County Sheriff.

He went on to graduate from the police academy at Seminole State College. At the time—1977—he was 18 and the youngest officer in Florida. The chief completed the academy before he even finished high school, and at first he was too young to buy his own gun and bullets, so his parents had to.

After first working for the Altamonte Springs Police Department, he went on to become the police chief of Lake Mary before joining UCF as chief in 2007, the same year that Greg started classes at UCF.

“I’ve gone through some really bad days as a cop, but the good ones outnumber them,” said Beary. “What I’ve learned over the last 36 years is once the badge goes on, it never comes off.”