Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly beamed with pride at Madison Square Garden last Friday as they welcomed nearly 1,200 new police officers into the ranks of New York’s Finest.
It was the last Police Academy commencement they will preside over, with both men leaving office on Jan. 1.
Bloomberg boasted that New York has become the safest big city in the world, and one from which others all over the glob,want to learn.
“Twelve years ago, no one thought New York’s crime rate could go any lower,” Bloomberg said. “But it did. Since 2001, crime has gone down by 32 percent and in a city of 8.4 million people, there have been fewer than 350 homicides, and that is largely due to the work of the fine men and women you are about to join.
“With all the talent and dedication in this graduating class, I know the department is positioned to build on our success.”
Kelly graduated from the academy 47 years ago.
“I remember everything my classmates and I felt that day: the satisfaction of completing my training; the pride as I took the oath to become a full-fledged member of New York’s Finest; the excitement of knowing I soon would be putting everything I learned into practice on patrol,” Kelly said.
More than 40 percent of the new officers are college graduates, and 46 have advanced degrees. Eighty-nine have served in the military, and 59 came from other city jobs including school safety agents, traffic enforcement agents and civilian employees of the NYPD.
The class is 59 percent white, 25 percent Hispanic, 9 percent black and 9 percent Asian. About 20 percent of the new officers are immigrants from 45 countries ranging from Albania to Venezuela.
The outgoing commissioner, who first held the job under Mayor David Dinkins and has served under Bloomberg for 12 years, said all those factors are beneficial to the department and to the city.
“Though your last jobs were as far afield as Iraq or as nearby as Wall Street, you have much in common,” he said. “You share a will to serve, to make a difference, to be a part of something larger than yourself. You also share, as of today, a mission to protect the people of our city.”
Kelly also reminded the new officers that they now are being called on to uphold the reputation of the department, and to be models of professionalism and integrity.
“Wherever your career in the department takes you, your commitment to service will be fundamental,” Kelly said. “Indeed it is the foundation of our partnership with the public. We simply cannot do our job of protecting the city without the respect and cooperation of the citizens we serve.
“It is an awesome responsibility,” Kelly added. “But you need only look to your fellow members of the department for inspiration.”
Kelly, who has come under fire from minority communities and Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio for what they say are poor relations with the public, said forging ties with the community is a never-ending mission.
“Theodore Roosevelt, who was police commissioner of New York City before he was president, said, ‘Character is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and nations alike,’” Kelly said. “I would add that it is also the decisive factor in policing.”
Lastly, the commissioner paid one final tribute to the family members of the recruits who were gathered in the garden.
“You, as much as anyone, deserve the credit for helping to produce these fine new police officers,” he said. “Your sons and daughters, your grandchildren, your spouses and friends graduating today are here in large part because of your influence.”