New Orleans Police Chief Michael Harrison on Friday graduated his first recruit class. Twenty-six new police officers hit the streets at a time when police may be under more scrutiny than ever before.
"We promised the city this department would grow, and we are - the ship is moving forward," said Harrison.
It's a proud moment for all. Parents and newly minted officers were beaming today at Dillard University. But recruit class 170 hits the streets at a time of protest nationwide. Fatalities involving police in Ferguson, New York and now Phoenix have put officers under the microscope like never before.
"This is the most difficult job in our entire society," said U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite, the keynote speaker at today's ceremony.
"These guys are trained to the highest standards...what they're talking about in New York, these guys are learning already," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. "One thing is certain. No matter what lies ahead for these officers, they will likely be the most photographed recruit class in NOPDhistory.
Each of the newly sworn officers will get a police body camera.
"We purchased another 100," said Chief Harrison. "All of these officers will get those on the first day."
It's a fact not lost on the U.S. attorney, whose father and brother were police officers.
"Any interaction - good or bad - can quickly become a worldwide event" said Polite.
The NOPD is confident that their training and new cameras will help officers avoid the controversies over use of force now playing out across the country.
"Those events across the country are unfortunate, but we have training here to teach them how we handle those situations," said Harrison.
The new officers begin their patrols fully aware.
"I think it makes everybody think about it, but remembering why you wanted to join - things like that make you persevere. With all the commotion going on. I think about it, but it doesn't get the best of me," said Lewis, who won a recruit award for fitness.
And she says with the training she's gotten, she's confident she and her fellow recruits will survive the challenges ahead.
The second recruit class of the year is already underway. Another is lined up to begin later this month. Landrieu says he's committed to building the department back up to 1,600 officers, a challenge that will take at least five years at the current rate of training.