OAKLAND -- Emilio Marco Bejarano-Penn's dream of joining the Oakland police force came true Thursday.
The Oakland 8-year-old, dressed in a formal, specially tailored police uniform, was sworn in as an honorary officer along with the 169th graduating Academy class.
As thrilling as it was for Emilio, who has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, the new recruit also touched the assembled officers and their families, who cheered and gave the youngster a long standing ovation as he walked into the auditorium.
Then Chief, Sean Whent made it official as he knelt down to pin his badge and again later as he handed him his certificate.
"We're happy he could be a part of this," Whent said. "The class is very excited as well. He helps make today more special than it already is."
The ceremony drew more than 400 people to the Scottish Rite Center across from Lake Merritt, but like a seasoned officer, Emilio did not appear nervous and even waved back to the crowd.
"We are honored by your presence and inspired by your bravery," Whent told him.
The day "was fun," Emilio said, but tiring. He was diagnosed on his birthday last August and has been undergoing treatments since then.
"We made his badge number 8705, the date of his birth, so his parents can keep his badge one day," said Joe C. Quintela, a retired Oakland officer and the president of the National Latino Peace Officers Association Alameda County Chapter, which spearheaded the effort to help Emilio realize his dream.
Whent praised the 34 graduates for the hard work they put into completing the six-month academy, considered one of the best in the state. Fifty-five had started.
"It speaks of your strength of character, your dedication and your perseverance," he said.
Class valedictorian Michael Ericksen gave Emilio a police baton on behalf of the graduates.
"He's part of the class," Ericksen said. "He came up to the (shooting) range with us in Concord."Emilio's family, friends and representatives from the Latino Peace Officers Association came to support him. Some wore green bracelets that read Team Emilio Marco. Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry posted a picture of himself wearing one on Instagram recently after meeting Emilio, who also met his favorite Oakland A's player Yoenis Céspedes.
"There's a tremendous generosity that humbles you and even though we might be heavy-hearted, just the outpouring of generosity and graciousness gives us further hope," said Emilio's father, Sasha Penn.
Emilio's mother, Berta Bejarano, teared up when her son walked to the stage.
"It was heartfelt. It was beautiful," she said.
Emilio said he has wanted to join the police force since he was about6 years old. Quintela and Emilio's mom are friends and when Quintela found out Emilio's career aspirations, he and Officer Robert Trevino set out to make it happen.
"Instead of waiting 20 years for him, we'll get him now," Trevino said. "This is a reminder of why we do this job. It's not just about catching the bad guy. We do it for the community."
Everyone pitched in to make sure Emilio became an officer, donating his uniform and setting up tours of the shooting range, defensive driving class and department headquarters.
Officers decorated him in pins, flooded him with stickers and raised arms for high-fives before asking him to join their respective departments; homicide, robbery, Emilio has his pick.
"That was his first time in the back of a police car," his mother laughed, "and hopefully his last."
Graduation Day could not have come soon enough for Emilio. In the days leading up to the ceremony, he ran around the house wearing his hat and writing tickets for his mom and dad, and putting older brother Juan Bejarano Gonzalez's hand behind his back to arrest him.
"What did I do?" Gonzalez asked.
Emilio looks up to his 26-year-old older brother, calling and texting him to make movie plans, but Gonzalez also looks up to his little brother.
"When I was 8 years old, I couldn't even imagine what he goes through," he said. "Wake up and fast, get labs, go to chemo, to be physically drained."
This past year has been an emotional rollercoaster for Emilio's family.
"It has robbed him of his childhood," Bejarano said of his illness. "But there's so much love in the city of Oakland for Emilio."
Staff writer Harry Harris contributed to this report