OAKLAND -- The city's shrunken police force got a much-needed infusion Friday with the graduation of 38 new officers from its first training academy in four years.
Chief of police Howard Jordan said it was a "good day" to welcome the new officers, who he said have invigorated and motivated the department and "brought a sense of hope and a sense of honor" to the organization.
The 166th academy's class is one of the most diverse in recent memory, with 31 men and seven women who among them speak 11 different languages. Two other graduates will join the Vallejo Police Department.
The graduation was held at the Scottish Rite Center on Lakeside Drive and was attended by more than 400 family members, friends, fellow police and city officials. Also in the audience were the almost 50 trainees who will start the 27-week academy on Monday, and Thomas Frazier, the recently named court-appointed compliance director.
The department, which had 837 officers in 2008, had 611 filled positions before Friday's graduation. The new grads will work with a field training officer for 20 weeks beginning April 1 before taking over a regular beat.
Seven of the graduates were already part of law enforcement families.
Brenton Lowe, the class valedictorian, is the son of retired Oakland police Capt. Frank Lowe, currently the chief of the Federal Reserve Bank police force. Nicholas Petersen's father is 15-year Oakland officer Cris Petersen; Thomas Thurston's father is Oakland officer Steve Thurston. Justin Belligan's brother, Jason, is an Oakland officer and another brother, Jeremy, is a Santa Clara County sheriff's deputy.
Kristine Jurgens-Duenas' mother, Debra Jurgens-Lewis, is a retired Alameda County sheriff's lieutenant; her father, John, is a retired Alameda County deputy and her stepfather is retired Oakland officer T.K. Lewis. Kevin Kelly's dad is San Francisco police Inspector Jim Kelly and Ross O'Halloran Burruel's brother, Brad, is a Santa Cruz County deputy sheriff.
Cris Petersen said he was "super proud" of his son and that he was glad "I can be here for a few more years to work with him."
Jordan told the officers they were graduating "in an important and exciting time" as the department undergoes new and innovative changes in strategies and transparency that he believes "will raise (its) level of excellence," reduce crime and gain community "respect, trust and collaboration."
Mayor Jean Quan said "we are happy to have you" and that she looks forward to them taking part in "'changing the (department's) relationship with the community and making community policing real." She urged them to embrace the community because "unless we have a true partnership with the community we can't stop crime."
Speaking for the graduates, Brenton Lowe said he and the others were ready for the challenge. "We grew together as a team and grew exponentially as individuals," he said. "We dripped sweat together, we dropped blood together, some of us secretly shed tears together. We relied on each other's strengths and experiences" and found out that "by working as a cohesive unit we can accomplish so much more."
Besides the seven with law enforcement ties, also graduating were: Nicole S. Allen, James Ashford, Joshua Bianchi, Remy Binder, Robert B. Blakely, Ken Bui, Michael T. Chung, Daniel Cornejo Valdivia, Kyle M. Dickson, Jonathan Breck Douglass, Luis Espinoza, Rickey Han, Anthony Hutzol, Anthonie Francina Jones, Amerra Kesterson, Michel Khem, Curtis Kingman, Dana Lee, Austen Leffler, Dung Le-Nguyen, Volodymyr Lipunov, Chau Dang Mai, Anthony Martinelli, Zender Molina-Yepsen, Brendan M. O'Brien, John H. Palmer III, Michael Ransom, Cedric Remo, Tracie Shea, Karl Templeman and Julie Yu. Leonard M. Alamon and Matt Samida will be joining the Vallejo Police Department.