NEW YORK—At the graduation ceremony of the city’s police academy on Dec. 28 Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Commissioner of the New York City Police Department Raymond Kelly announced record low numbers of murders and shooting in the history of the city.
“The crime reductions the NYPD has driven over the past 12 years have defied the odds and far outpaced the rest of the nation,” Bloomberg said inside the arena at Madison Square Garden.
Bloomberg, who will turn his administration over to Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio in January, expressed pride in the record-low murder rate which the city hasn’t seen since the 1950s. The number of homicides, just a few days before the year’s end, stood at 332. When Bloomberg assumed office in 2001, the number of homicides was 649.
“Those record breaking successes are all due in great part to the professionalism and skill of the NYPD,” he continued. Although Bloomberg noted that crime reduction is just the beginning step for today’s police officers, who are also responsible for countering terrorism.
Just after the 9/11 rocked the city, Commissioner Kelly created the nation’s first municipal Counterterrorism Bureau.
Kelly, a graduate of the academy, expressed pride in the knowledge that the department defended the city from 16 terrorist plots. When speaking at the podium, he reminisced about the time when he first joined the ranks of officers some 47 years ago.
“Joining the New York City Police Department was the best career decision that I ever made,” Kelly said.
Swearing in Future Police Officers
When Lieutenant Tony Giorgio, the Master of the Graduation Ceremony, stepped up to the podium and announced the beginning of the ceremony, lights were dimmed, for a short, inspirational video about the role of an NYPD officer. When the lights came back on, Frank Sinatra’s “New York” blared from the speakers in all corners of the arena and thousands of teary eyed family members stared down.
Fresh-faced and focused, 1,171 graduating police officers marched into the arena. They wore freshly pressed uniforms, shined shoes, and snow-white gloves. By the time the song ended, they were all standing still, facing forward, their caps a sea of navy blue. A loud thump followed as they uniformly plopped down on their chairs.
The officers were sworn in after remarks by officials, a speech by Valedictorian Officer Michael Ernst, and a musical selection that consisted of bagpipes and drums.
Deputy Chief Chaplain Monsignor Robert Romano read the final benediction and with his last word “Integrity,” he broke the seal of silence, and gleeful graduates threw their white gloves into the air, hugged, and cheered. A shower of white and blue confetti filled the air.
Graduates with distinguished honors ascended to pose for pictures with the outgoing mayor and commissioner.
The scene outside Madison Square Gardens was no less chaotic. Graduates reunited with their families, some held their children for photos, others slipped into limousines with their friends, some stood alone in the cold and made phone calls while pacing the crowded sidewalks.
A Word From the Graduates
Police officer Andrew Lava received the police commissioner’s award for the second highest overall average.
Lava said he was proud to be following in his father’s, uncle’s, and grandfather’s footsteps. His father, Richard Lava, is a retired lieutenant who served in NYPD for 23 years.
“[I want] to make a difference in people’s lives, day to day, help people who can’t help themselves,” Lava said.
Brendan Sullivan, a 23-year-old graduate, said it was a long journey, but he’s glad to become part of the NYPD, fulfilling his life-long dream.
“I’m very glad that I can be out there on the front lines and doing what I’m able to do,” Sullivan said.
Another graduate, Michael Behrendt, 30, from New York said that graduating felt great.
“The best part about it is you found friends for life here, sometimes going through something like this with a bunch of people, strangers initially and at the end, just six months later, we’re basically like brothers and sisters,” Behrendt said.
One of the things he was looking forward to was the beginning of his career.
“I’ve always wanted to go the civil service route,” he said.
Behrendt was one of 92 graduates who served in the military before they joined the academy.