The Nassau County Police Department swears in one of its largest classes in years, according to officials, at its academy in Massapequa Park. Credit: Howard Schnapp

One of the largest classes of police recruits Nassau County has seen in years, officials said, was sworn in Friday under unique conditions because of the pandemic, while speakers alluded to a challenging landscape for them after protests locally and nationally over police brutality and racial tension.

"You will be the first class that has to do remote learning, probably in the state of New York," Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder told 49 recruits wearing black face masks and socially-distanced in the auditorium of the Police Academy in Massapequa Park, while the rest of the 201 recruits — in batches of 15 to 25 — watched the ceremony on video screens in 11 classrooms.

Beyond the effects of the pandemic, Ryder told the recruits: "You will be the first class trained under the new [police] reforms of the state of New York. One person changed the history of this country on how we all treat each other, and how we police. One person."

Ryder said in an interview later he was speaking of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, who on May 25 placed his knee on the neck of a Black man, George Floyd — who was prone on the ground after being arrested — for nearly nine minutes, killing him. That "bad act by that bad officer affected all of us," Ryder said.

Ryder said the 185 recruits for Nassau County sworn in Friday, along with 16 others for the county's villages, would receive training over seven months that already exceeded many state mandates.

"We teach implicit bias and bias awareness more hours than the state required. But we’re going to do even more," Ryder said.

NCPD Officer Derrick Penn with his sister Chelsea Penn, a...

NCPD Officer Derrick Penn with his sister Chelsea Penn, a police recruit who was sworn in Friday.   Credit: Howard Schnapp

One of the recruits, Chelsea Penn, 26, was inspired to join the department by her brother’s example. "My older brother … he was in the process about four years ago. I went to his graduation, and I was like, ‘This is exactly what I want to get into. Being a part of this family and just getting involved.’"

Her brother Derrick Penn, 28, has been serving at the Eighth Precinct. Penn said his sister would be a "perfect asset to this department, she’s very headstrong, she works very hard." And Penn said he was inspired to serve because "I was interested in paying it forward" and having a "positive impact in my community."

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, who swore in the recruits, told them the county was "vested in your success," adding, "We in Nassau have law enforcement's back."

She said in an interview that the county had budgeted for the additional recruits and was not relying on federal financial help, which she said might not come.

Ryder noted the police department was "understaffed," citing retirements of 250 officers in the past couple of years. "So we’re starting to catch up again."

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