Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly on Friday presided over their 24th and final police academy graduation in what turned into another celebration of the city's large drop in crime during the Bloomberg years.
In a packed Madison Square Garden arena filled with the family and friends of the 1,171 graduates, including the class valedictorian from Suffolk County, Bloomberg checked off the major accomplishments of the police.
"Twelve years ago no one thought the crime rate would go any lower. It did, and since 2001 crime has gone down by 32 percent," Bloomberg said to applause.
"Let's consider the most important measure of public safety. So far this year in a city of 8.4 million people there have been fewer than 340 homicides, and that is 20 percent below last year's record low, and that is 49 percent . . . [down] since 2001," noted Bloomberg, adding that the murder rate is now at a level not seen since the 1950s.
In his address, Kelly praised Bloomberg for supporting the NYPD and improving the quality of life in New York. He also spoke of his own excitement when he joined the department more than 40 years ago.
"Looking back, I can say that joining the New York City Police Department was the best career decision that I have ever made, and note that if you maintain the same faith and the same commitment that brought you here today, it will be the best one you ever made as well," Kelly told the new officers, who trace their background to 45 countries.
Kelly stressed that the new officers have to uphold the law and the civil rights of civilians.
"We simply cannot do our job without the respect and cooperation of the citizens we serve," Kelly said.
Officer Matthew A. Ernst, 23, of Suffolk County, was given the Mayor's Award for the highest overall average at the academy and was class valedictorian. Ernst told Newsday he is the first member of his family to join the department. The new officer said he will be assigned to a precinct in northeast Queens and will be part of Operation Impact, which focuses officers on high-crime areas.
Later, Kelly told reporters his 12 years as commissioner went very fast, and he said that the department's relationship with the communities was very strong despite "some narratives" during the mayoral campaign.