NEWARK, NJ - Eighty-nine new police recruits filled the St. Rose of Lima Church in Newark on Wednesday as they were welcomed to the Essex County Police Training Academy.
The recruits filled the pews while their families and friends looked on beside and behind them.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka noted the dropout rates of past recruitment classes during their five-month tenure at the academy where “classes usually start off very large and they get smaller as we go.”
Two recruits had already dropped out of this most recent class before the welcoming ceremony, according to Public Safety Department officials. The class was slightly smaller than the 144 new recruits welcomed last August who trained at the NJ State Police Academy in Sea Girt.
Fourty-eight new police officers were sworn-in in July, topping the department’s size to more than 1,100.
Baraka asked the recruits to consider the “rigor and importance of this academy” and deemed Newark as having one of the finest police departments in New Jersey.
“It’s going to be hard,” Baraka said. “If it was easy then the room would be bigger than it is.”
Baraka was joined by Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose and Newark Police Chief Darnell Henry.
Ambrose noted obstacles that have faced the department in the last 10 years, which left had left it “almost down to no one.” He commended Baraka and the City Council for helping to bring on hundreds of additional police officers in recent years.
The department was once under federal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, which in 2014 found constitutional violations in the department’s stop and arrest practices, its use of force and theft by officers.
A civilian review board was created early in Baraka's tenure as mayor after the investigation was complete as a result of an agreement reached with the Justice Department.
Baraka encouraged the recruits to stick with the training academy’s rigorous program on their first shot after highlighting that recruits can often ask for second or third chances.
“Keep your head up,” Baraka said. “We need you on these streets.”