After starting his professional boxing career 12-0, Alexander "El Toro" Vargas of Bellport was finally ready for a physical challenge.

On Tuesday, Vargas and 81 other members of Suffolk's 185th police recruitment class took the oath of office, signaling the start of their rigorous physical and mental training to become county law enforcement officers.

"It's been a dream of mine to be a Suffolk County police officer, knowing that it is the finest in the world," said Vargas, 26, a super lightweight boxer who plans to continue prize fighting after he completes academy training.

"… I can't wait to get out in the county of Suffolk and help make it a safer place and to be part of the best department in the country," he said.

The county's latest police class includes 70 Suffolk police department recruits, seven of whom, including Vargas, are fluent Spanish speakers. The class also includes 10 recruits from the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office and two from the Stony Brook State University Police.

Recruits will undergo 31 weeks of physical and classroom training and receive more than 1,000 hours of instruction on topics such as criminal law, emergency medicine, domestic violence, cultural diversity, anti-bias training, mental illness and counterterrorism.

The Suffolk police department, with roughly 2,400 members, is the 12th largest in the country.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the recruits were committing to a career that will allow them to make their community a safer place.

"We know that you will shoulder additional burdens, more than most in public service," Bellone said Tuesday. "And that you will be, from time to time, put into situations where you are placing yourself in harm's way in order to protect others. In order to protect strangers and people in your community. And that is a significant thing. It is a noble thing. It is a critically important thing."

Among the Suffolk Police Department recruits, the class is 81% male; 80% white, and 68% have a college degree, officials said. Eight of the recruits served in the military, according to department data.

Newsday reported last year that Long Island’s police forces remain overwhelmingly white despite decades of federal oversight meant to diversify its ranks.

Black and Hispanic applicants are less likely to be hired by both the Nassau and Suffolk police departments, which rejected candidates of color at rates that exceeded federal standards used to uncover evidence of discrimination, the Newsday investigation revealed.

"I look forward to helping the people within the neighborhood,"...

"I look forward to helping the people within the neighborhood," said Suffolk police recruit Kateri Clark, 27, of East Northport, a four-year veteran of the NYPD. Credit: James Carbone

Approximately 43% of the new Suffolk police department recruits bring previous law enforcement experience, officials said, including Kateri Clark, 27, of East Northport, who served four years in the NYPD.

"I look forward to helping the people within the neighborhood," Clark said. "Basically just working with the community and doing anything in terms of events. Connecting with the people and forming that bond."

Suffolk Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison, who took the job earlier this month after serving as the NYPD's chief of the department, swore in his first class of recruits, noting that they will leave the academy in the best shape of their life.

"This is a very difficult job," Harrison said. "It's a dangerous job but it's also a noble profession. And at the end of the day we are here to help people. And that what's it's all about."

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