PATERSON, NJ -  Six Paterson residents are about to embark on the toughest six months of their lives, according to Paterson Police Director Jerry Speziale.

The four women and two men were joined by family and friends as they stood before police brass and Mayor Andre Sayegh to take their oath to join the ranks of the Paterson Police Department. The six will enter the police academy on Friday and emerge, Speziale continued, as “leaders in the community.”

"Fasten your seatbelts and hold on tight,” Paterson Deputy Chief Heriberto Rodriguez advised the new recruits, perhaps only half joking. There are days, he told them, that they’d be somebody’s “angel,” and others, he warned, when they are going to feel like they got kicked in the gut and can’t move.

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Without offering specifics Rodriguez referenced the past “busy week” that included several 16 hour days, adding that despite the demands of the job there’s nothing he’d rather be doing, “especially when the city needs us.”

Offering encouragement to make their time in the Paterson Police Department “a career, not a job,” Rodriguez offered his advice that the soon to be police officers strive to become the chief of the department.

Swearing in his second class of police recruits since taking office Mayor Andre Sayegh celebrated them as a “reflection of the population,” including Serein Tamimi who represented the first Paterson police recruit to be sworn in wearing a hijab.

Before administering their oath Sayegh urged the six to “stand up for truth and transparency,” and called on them to get engaged with the community. “Your challenge,” he added “is to serve a city with challenges.”

Adding a poignant endnote to the formal ceremony was Pastor Felix Valentin who offered that there is “strength in unity” while adding a prayer for “bad news reports to become good news reports.”

Among the recruits was Gabriel Rivera who said he felt great and proud to have his family at his side for the event. “They are a big part of me being here,” he said adding that the news reports of the past days have only made him “more anxious to make a positive impact.”

Also on her way to the police academy is Geavonne Owens, a born and raised Patersonian whose father retired as a sergeant from the force. Growing up in Paterson, she said, gives her an understanding of the community that she hopes to serve as the city’s first female K-9 officer.

“I have seen a lot of turmoil,” she added, but chose to stay because “this city needs the help.”

“Instead of chasing the money,” by going to work in another department Owens added, “I want to stay here and make a difference.”


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