San Jose Police Department welcomes class of new recruits

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San Jose Police Department is welcoming a class of 54 new recruits to the force, which is the largest group of recruits for the struggling department. (KGO-TV )

San Jose city leaders are celebrating the police department's new academy.

A shortage of officers has plagued the city for several years but now officials say the tide has turned.

"This is a big deal. This is a very big deal for us," said Chief Eddie Garcia.

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One year ago, Garcia was dealing with a historically low number of officers on the streets, low morale, and an academy class of just 7 recruits.

On Friday, a new class began with 54 recruits, the most in several years.

"We're not where we want to be yet and we won't rebuild overnight. But make no mistake, we are rising again and help is on the way," said Garcia.

Officials say that of the 107 new officers that are currently in the training process, 27 are in the Field Training Program, 26 are mid-way through Academy Class 29, and 54 are starting Academy Class 30.

That will bring the total number of sworn personnel to 983, short of the department's authorized level of 1,109 officers.

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While the new recruits are getting the attention now, the officers who've stuck it out with the department over the past six years have dealt with layoffs, and cuts in pay and pension.
They are currently working mandatory overtime which can be between 160 and 10-hour shifts a week.

"This is not a department that is being made great because we have 54 new recruits. This was a department that was already great," said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

Command staff says they have not lowered the standards for being an officer but they have become more aggressive in their recruiting. Gone are the days where the San Jose Police Department attracted law enforcement talent. Now, they have to go get them.

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But Chief Garcia says the issues that caused the department to lose officers have been fixed. Pay, pension and other benefits are back to being competitive with other departments.

"Anyone who has been in a boat that's taking on water is probably happy the holes have been fixed and the only thing they have to do is bail out the water and that's where we're at right now," said Garcia.

This particular class is scheduled to graduate in December and will be out patrolling on their own by next April.

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