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Academy recruits poised to join NYPD

Police line up outside the Adam Clayton Powell

Police line up outside the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building in Harlem. (Dec. 22, 2010) Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

One soon-to-be NYPD cop - the police academy class valedictorian and the fourth generation in his family to pursue law enforcement - grew up in Port Jefferson Station as an avid athlete.

Another, a native of the West Indies, decided to join the force after growing up in a country where she watched criminals terrorize innocent citizens with impunity. Another was inspired at the age of 10 by a cop who gave her a Christmas present as her family moved into a shelter.

They're three of the nearly 1,200 recruits set to graduate from the police academy Monday morning at Madison Square Garden, after six months of training.

"It's a great . . . feeling knowing I'm going into the family business," said the valedictorian, Dennis Maxim, 24, whose veteran-cop grandfather will watch him graduate next week in a class that will include Conor McDonald, whose hero cop father was paralyzed in 1986 by a gunman.

Before the recruits are sworn in, they began the final chapters of the curriculum Wednesday at the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem: a four-day sensitivity training course that includes blunt talk from some of the department's harshest critics, including the Revs. Al Sharpton and Herbert Daughtry.

NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the training, called Advancing Community Trust, was the seventh such session the department has held for its academy classes.

"I think it's also important for our recruits to hear firsthand from members of the community . . . that all is not perfect. There are people out there that don't like the police," Kelly said.

He added: "We can't rewrite history, but what we can do is learn from the past."

The recruits sat Wednesday in the Apollo as the panelists spoke about their personal experiences with the police and doled out advice on dealing with the diverse communities.

"Say buenos días . . . in the hood . . . Or say shalom or say asalam aleichem," said panelist and veteran editor Gerson Borrero. "It ain't gonna hurt you!"

Recruits interviewed Wednesday were looking forward to hitting the streets.

Rennae Francis, the native of the West Indies island nation of Dominica who came to the United States at 17, said she hopes to be a crime scene investigator.

"Growing up in a poor country, I saw a lot of injustices going on - with young kids being raped and nothing being done about it," said Francis of Crown Heights. "I looked at that and said, 'Maybe I can change that.' "

Jennyliz Sanchez, also 22, of the Bronx, decided to become a police officer after seeing how even cops' small gestures can make a lifelong impression.

She remembered when her family fell on hard times 12 years ago and how much the gifts the cop gave her and her brothers meant. "That was the only gift that I received that Christmas," she said.

The recruits have differing experiences that brought them to the job, but they and their loved ones will join together as one at Monday's graduation.

Maxim, an alum of St. Anthony's High School in South Huntington who now lives in Valley Stream, said he's wanted to be a police officer since he was a sports-obsessed boy.

"There was the baseball player profession, but that didn't pan out," he quipped, "so this is the fall back."

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