Nearly 700 NYPD recruits, the first of almost 1,300 additional officers authorized this year by Mayor Bill de Blasio, were sworn in Thursday at the police academy in College Point.

"There are eight and half million New Yorkers in this city and they need you, they want you," Bratton, who, with the mayor, swore in the recruits, told the 678 new officers who were about to begin six months of training at the new academy. "They understand how important you are to them. Some do not. Those are the criminals. You will have to deal with them."

Bratton reminded the recruits it was through de Blasio that the city came up with the money to boost the level of the force with 1,297 new hires in an effort to replace about 6,000 officers who have left since Sept. 11, 2001.

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The latest class, which is the first to be sworn in at the new academy building, is composed of 32 percent Hispanics, the largest such number in history, de Blasio said. Whites comprise 46 percent, blacks 12.3 percent and Asians about 8 percent, he added; 20 percent of the recruits are women.

The majority of new cops, 59 percent, live in New York City. Among the 41 percent who live outside of the five boroughs were Joshua Schnitzer of Roslyn and Karen Seidler of Riverhead. Both decided to change careers to join the NYPD.

"It sounds like a cliche, but as a kid I always wanted to be a cop," said Schnitzer, 28, who was a freelance cameraman for News 12 Long Island and was working as an emergency medical technician for the FDNY when he got the call to start his police training.

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Seidler, 34, had worked as an assistant district attorney for seven years in Suffolk County and decided to follow in the footsteps of her father, Richard, who worked 25 years with the NYPD.

"I always admired him and respected him," Seidler said of her father.

Another career-changing recruit was Natasha Velez, 28, a former New York Post reporter who worked at police headquarters covering crime. De Blasio mentioned that her grandfather was wounded in 1962 while on duty as an officer.