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BPD welcomes new class of 25 to its ranks

It is a calling.

It's not simply a profession, but a calling to protect and serve as a Bakersfield Police Department officer, said speakers at Thursday morning’s Bakersfield Law Enforcement Training Academy’s graduation ceremony.

The 25 cadets who celebrated Thursday fulfilled the call by enduring physical and mental tests designed to break them down to their bare bones, said class speaker and graduate Adrian Rodas at the Bakersfield First Assembly church.

Those who stayed became the best versions of themselves, Rodas added.

“We all wrestled each day with our challenges, hoping and praying we would make it to the end,” Rodas said. “But, most of us ... were caught by surprise when the relationships were formed and, ultimately, the family we would become.”

Family and friends applauded and beamed at the speech and the newest graduates seated upon a stage. Gold badges and nametags upon the newest officers to join the BPD’s ranks glinted under the lights.

Senior Officer Maxwell Didario, a recruitment training officer, said about half of the cadets from the original class completed the rigorous process. Despite their celebration, however, the tests are not over. More stress can be expected as the officers step out into the real world.

“There has never been a more mentally and emotionally taxing time to enter law enforcement,” Didario said. He added keeping family close is key to outlasting the trying circumstances.

Amid the increasing scrutiny heaped upon all law enforcement in contemporary times, BPD Chief Greg Terry implored the graduates to remember the values of compassion, accountability and professionalism.

“They will never steer you wrong,” Terry said of the morals.

The chief reminded the cadets to honor the legacies of former police officers and to understand the badges pinned to their uniforms do not belong to them. Rather, the medallions belong to the community.

“It is a symbol of the power and responsibility in which we have been entrusted,” Terry said. “Do not abuse it. Remember why you chose to become a police officer and let that guide your decisions.”

Out of the 25 graduates, four honors were distributed. Manuel Mancera won the academic award; Chase Hammons won the marksmanship award; Crystal Hoffman won the physical fitness award; Thomas Jannuzzi won the top overall achievement award.

This graduation is a direct result of the passage of Measure N, or the Public Safety & Vital Services Measure, and is the fifth of its kind, Terry said. Voters in Bakersfield approved a 1-cent tax increase in 2018 to provide about $58 million annually to the city.

Terry added Measure N was intended to hire 100 officers over three years, and hopes to have two more academies next year to fulfill this promise.

“Without these additional resources, these multiple academies would not have been made possible,” Terry said to reporters after the ceremony.

Ishani Desai can be reached at 661-395-7417. Follow her on Twitter: @idesai98.