Baltimore's newest police officers implored to serve 'with dignity and honor' amid department upheaval

Baltimore’s newest police officers — officially, the 2017-01 class from the Police Training Academy — begin street training this week, their first assignments after a graduation ceremony in which they were implored to serve the city “with dignity and honor.”

While important questions have been raised about the preparedness of some members of another class of recruits — officially, the 2017-02 class — citizens of Baltimore should know that the 46 men and women of 2017-01 took their oaths Thursday night. They arrive for duty after a three-year surge of violence that marked Baltimore as one of the nation’s deadliest cities, and as the police department tries to recover from a corruption scandal, adapt to a change of command and make reforms spelled out in a sweeping consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice.

The class that graduated Thursday night consists of 20 white men and 10 black men; three white women and two black women; and 11 Hispanic men. The youngest officer is 21, the oldest 45. The average age of the class is 27. Ten of the new officers have served in the military. Nineteen have college degrees. Nine are city residents. Twenty-three have children. Seventeen of them come from law enforcement families.

At Thursday’s ceremony acting Commissioner Darryl De Sousa spoke to the class, as did Mayor Catherine Pugh. They said all the important things you’d expect them to say — thanking the new officers for their commitment to training and to helping the city, and congratulating them on earning their badges. De Sousa implored the officers to connect with the people they serve, to “create a pathway to the community with integrity.” He asked them to become mentors to boys or girls in the districts where the officers serve.

De Sousa said he would “reform this police department to the once-great department it was.” He told the new officers they should expect random integrity tests and be mindful of new practices to catch overtime pay abuse — a direct result of the Gun Trace Task Force scandal.

De Sousa said it should be the officers’ ambition to work together “to make Baltimore City the best city possible.”

Then Jake Aumack spoke. He was selected to give the class address, and a Baltimorean concerned about the state of our city would have been pleased with everything this young man said. He described the rigorous physical and academic training the class had received, and the camaraderie and bonds that had developed among the recruits since last March.

And I liked this part of his address to classmates: “May all of you be safe in your endeavors as we hit the streets. Remember to always back each other up, be courageous but compassionate, serve the citizens with dignity and honor, and stay committed to striving to improve the lives of everyone who calls this great city home.”

Aumack acknowledged the class’s advisers and instructors. “Thank you for believing in us,” he said. “We won’t let you down.”

drodricks@baltsun.com

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