The Suffolk County Police Department swore in 115 new recruits in one of its most diverse classes ever Monday morning at its police academy in Brentwood, officials said.
Of the 115 recruits, 19 are women, 20 have a Hispanic background and 10 percent speak Spanish fluently, department officials said. In addition, five are black and one is Asian. Coupled with a class of 60 recruits sworn in last month, 175 new officers are set to hit the streets next summer, officials said, making it the second-largest class in department history.
There are an additional four recruits in the class going to other departments — three to East Hampton and one to Westhampton Beach.
“Part of our success in law enforcement is to successfully collaborate with the community, so to have people who speak the language of the community, to have people who look like the community — all that’s going to strengthen relationships,” Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said.
The commissioner, along with County Executive Steve Bellone, who called Suffolk “one of the safest counties in America today,” spoke to the recruits during the brief swearing-in ceremony at the police academy on the grounds of Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood.
Sini, who ditched the podium and spoke animatedly to his crop of recruits, warned of the “challenges” they may face on the job, but told them they would be ready because of the rigorous training they are to receive.
“What I ask from you is each and every day, you wake up, you strive to be better than the day before, and when you go out there, after you take your oath as a police officer, you do everything in your power to protect and serve the residents of Suffolk County, and you take that oath with the seriousness and purity that it deserves,” Sini said.
Rosa Gonzalez, 25, a Queens native, was a medical assistant before entering the academy. A member of the Air Force Reserve, she said she wanted to continue to use her medical training and to serve her community in the military tradition.
Austin Phillip, 21, a volunteer with the Central Islip Fire Department, said he was drawn to police work from seeing his uncles and cousins who are either former or current NYPD members. “I’ve always wanted to be a Suffolk County police officer since I was 6,” he said.
Cognizant of the recent fatal police shootings nationwide that have brought attention to police training and practices, Phillip said he “deals with people from different backgrounds every day,” and that he would be diligent in doing his job to “serve and protect.”
The recruits will undergo 29 weeks of training, followed by two to three months of field training, officials said.
Sini said there were 84 retirements so far this year and the department isn’t expecting many more by year’s end. A class of 60 is budgeted for 2017, he said.
Police Benevolent Association president Noel DiGerolamo, who also attended the event, said he was pleased to see steady hiring. “It’s always a good sign when we see a new class getting hired so we can keep up with the retirements that are anticipated,” he said.
Another recruit, Kevin Keogh, 21, is following in the footsteps of his father, Third Precinct Sgt. James Keogh.
The younger Keogh said he wanted to be an officer ever since he was a kid, inspired by his dad and grandfather, who was a Nassau homicide detective. His uncle was an NYPD detective, he said.
“I want to serve the country in some way; I wouldn’t want to sit in an office doing nothing for the rest of my life,” he said.