Newark welcomes largest police class in at least a decade

By Noah Cohen | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on July 06, 2016

NEWARK — City leaders on Wednesday welcomed 135 police recruits as they begin training to become officers in what officials say is Newark's largest class of future officers in more than a decade.

Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose and Mayor Ras Baraka addressed the recruits as part of a ceremony at the Metropolitan Baptist Church, where seven recent police academy graduates were also sworn in as officers.

Ambrose noted that many residents and police brass at the event likely remembered the days when Newark had 1,500 to 1,600 officers. The newest 135 recruits are set to bring the police division's ranks up to 1,127 officers from its current 992 members.

"Today is an extraordinary today," Ambrose said. "This department is the best in the nation, but it was depleted."

The new recruits will undergo 26 weeks of police training at academies in Essex, Bergen, Passaic and Morris counties before five weeks of additional training within Newark, according to officials. New officers are initially sent to walk beats around the city before moving to assignments in police precincts. The group will be among the first to use body cameras and Tasers.

After graduation, the new crop of recruits will help boost police response time for the short staffed department, prevent crime and allow for a beefed up criminal investigations unit, Ambrose added.

"The benefactors of this are the citizens," the public safety director said in an interview.

Ambrose and Baraka both spoke of reforming the police department after a Department of Justice review found repeated civil rights violations and the force was placed under a federal monitor.

"There's a transformation that's occurring," said Ambrose, a former chief of investigations at the Essex County Prosecutor's Office who Baraka hired as public safety director. "This is a department that is changing for the better."

Recruits must meet high standards as city police officers, the mayor and public safety director said.

"The citizens can have a bad day. You can't. Remember that," Ambrose told the class.

Officials this year have sworn in 80 police officers and Baraka said his administration has hired more cops in the past two years than over the earlier eight years.

"We are working to build our police department, not decimate it," Baraka added. "We are working to strengthen the department, not destroy it."

The ceremony brought proud family members and top law enforcement officials, including Acting Attorney General Christopher Porrino, Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray and the special agent in charge of Newark's FBI division.

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