Men and women of many ethnicities lined up triple-file from one end of the NYPD Police Academy in College Point, Queens to the other on Monday morning, ready to begin their journey toward joining “New York’s Finest.”
The huge building on the 32-acre site was filled with 900 young men and women police recruits, standing at attention, staring intently forward.
This was the newest class following a postponement of a prior class that will make up for the nearly 3,000 officers that left the rank-and-file of the NYPD through budget-induced attrition and retirement. The cuts, and the new class of recruits, come at a time when New York City shootings have nearly doubled and homicides are up 40%.
The NYPD celebrated their new “family members” at the academy, with Police Commissioner Dermot Shea on hand to greet them. After 30 years on the job, Shea admitted to the cadets that they are needed as many cops retire. He cautioned them that they are entering the department “at a difficult time.”
“You are not starting another job, you are embarking on career – a noble profession, but also entering the policing profession at a difficult time, a time of uncertainly, a time when it seems the eyes of world are on us,” Shea said to 450 of the 900 students gathered in a large gymnasium, all with social distancing and wearing masks. “There’s a national conversation going on right now about what policing should look like – I would say to you, don’t be defensive about it, embrace it. You are now a part of that history and that’s a good thing.”
The raw recruits will spend the next six months being tested “intellectually, physically and emotionally,” Shea remarked — and “challenged in ways you never anticipated.” He offered some advice on how to handle it all.
“Don’t be afraid to fail, learn from it,” Shea suggested. “If you do learn, six months from now will be one of your proudest days, because you will be counted among the best in law enforcement.”
Shea outlined two simple rules: “Treat everyone as you would treat your family – the crime victim, the perp in a crime, the stranded motorist, the emotionally disturbed person who needs help, the heroin addict suffering withdrawal – compassion is what you must lean on hard.”
He added the other rule: “Never underestimate the impact you have on people who call on you.”
The new class has an average age of 25, with 686 men and 214 women. More than third (38.9%) are white, followed by 33.9% Hispanic, 13.3% Black, and 13.9% Asian or other nationalities.
Fifty recruits previously served in the U.S. military.