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Suffolk graduates class of 91 police recruits amid gang threat

Graduates look on during commencement exercises for the

Graduates look on during commencement exercises for the 171st recruit class of the Suffolk County Police Department at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood on Friday. Credit: Barry Sloan

Suffolk County officials graduated a class of law enforcement recruits Friday and assured them they have the community’s support — even as a death threat from the MS-13 gang hung over their Nassau County police counterparts.

The graduation of the 91 recruits featured all the pomp and tradition of past ceremonies, but the recent threats from the notorious gang was in the back of many minds.

Acting Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart kicked off her address to the graduates by addressing the recent MS-13 gang threats.

“To our recruits, families and loved ones — There is no greater priority in Suffolk County than the safety and security of our officers, period,” Hart said at the ceremony at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood.

Nassau and Hempstead police officers are on high alert after MS-13 threatened cops there. No current threat exists in Suffolk, officials said.

Newly minted Police Officer Kaila La Flair, 32, said she felt the 29 weeks of police academy training prepared her for whatever threats and challenges come her way.

“You always have to be alert and aware, like anything in life,” she said.

The threat wasn’t going to spoil this day, La Flair said.

“I’m feeling great,” she said. “It’s been my dream.”

When recruit Michelle Knudsen walked on stage to receive her certificate, among those standing there to congratulate her was her husband, Craig, who is already on the Suffolk police force.

“It’s in the blood,” said Michelle, 32, who had been a speech pathologist and then a stay-at-home mom for four years before enrolling in the academy.

She was eager to get out in the field, but her mother, Angela Giovanniello, had some mixed feelings.

“It’s a tough gig,” Giovanniello said of police work. “We’ll leave it in God’s hands.”

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