NYPD Police Commissioner James O'Neill and NYPD brass celebrate at...

NYPD Police Commissioner James O'Neill and NYPD brass celebrate at the ribbon-cutting of the new Candidate Assessment Division in Manhattan on Monday, Oct. 24, 2016. Credit: Craig Ruttle

Police Commissioner James O’Neill told a classroom of 50 prospective NYPD hires at the department’s new recruiting center Monday that standards “are a lot higher here” than at schools and other workplaces and urged them to follow application instructions to the letter.

The applicants, who stood quickly at attention when the commissioner entered, were being guided on the process that includes proof of citizenship and preparation of documentation for background and credit checks.

O’Neill gave them some succinct advice: “If you have friends who are not the best, lose them.”

Earlier Monday, the commissioner and top NYPD brass cut a ceremonial ribbon to open the Candidate Assessment Division on 20th Street in Gramercy Park — the seven-story building that opened in the 1960s as the city’s police academy. For the first time, the department’s recruitment process will be housed under one roof in the upgraded building.

Test-taking, examinations that include psychological evaluations, medical physicals, visual and audio tests now will take about 18 months to complete. The process used to take up to four years.

“A lot happens in those years, and now that we are streamlining the process, we are receiving and pushing through the finest candidates before they accept other offers,” said O’Neill, who had to wait four years before he was hired.

The first exam for these prospective recruits is scheduled in January.

At the ceremony, as O’Neill touted a focus on community policing rather than the “adventure” of being a cop, he said recruits are told that “being a police officer is a tough job. But today it is more important that the public trusts us and that they feel they are being treated fairly.”

Kicking off the recruitment campaign is an interactive NYPD website with actors, meant to appeal to millennials’ individuality. The slogans “Bring Who You Are” and “It’s You We Want” use a hip tone to highlight the traits of honesty, courage and service in describing the characteristics of the 21st-century cop.

“You have to have all these attributes: character, compassion, respect and courage,” said Kim Royster, assistant chief commanding officer for the Candidate Assessment Division. “This is who we are looking for.”

First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker said the department’s racial, ethnic and gender diversity continues to increase, with hiring of more African-American men and women in the last two years. The department needs more Asian-American female officers, he said.

In addition to its online presence on recruitment, the department plans to connect with religious leaders throughout the city to help recruit in their neighborhoods.

Events will be announced on the website and those signed on will receive alerts to activities in their neighborhoods. The center also has a telephone bank of NYPD staff to answer questions from callers.

O’Neill, upon leaving the classroom of applicants, ended on an encouraging note, saying that if they are hired, that day “will be the best day of your life . . . You will have a rewarding career — a life of significance.”

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