Fifteen new graduates of the Philadelphia Police Academy were sworn in as officers on Friday, the smallest graduating class in recent memory, officials said.
Although enrollment in the academy has been declining for years, Police Commissioner Richard Ross and police spokesman Lt. John Stanford each said he could not remember a class with fewer members. In years past, graduating classes regularly topped 100 members.
Stanford said police departments across the country have been experiencing challenges in recruiting in recent years. He said police officials were unsure why.
“I don’t know if there’s one specific thing you can put your finger on,” he said.
Still, the smaller gathering did little to dampen the mood.
Ross and Mayor Kenney each addressed the new officers at Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 headquarters in the Far Northeast, thanking them for their service and urging them to remember their oath to protect the citizens of the city.
Kenney said police work is “a job that I myself would probably not be able to do.”
Ross noted that because of unrest between police departments and communities across the country, it is an “interesting” time to be a police officer. But he said he hoped the new members could help build bridges with the community throughout their careers.
“We all have an opportunity to improve police-community relations,” Ross said. “And you have a responsibility, as new police officers, to help us improve upon some of those relationships we’ve already established, and to help us cultivate some.”
The class was mixed in terms of gender and race. The 15 officers will begin their careers on foot patrol in districts across the city, Stanford said.