New Members of the Team
May 25, 2010 1:58 PM
Yesterday I got a chance to greet this year's class of new police recruits at their swearing in ceremony, which is the start of their seven month training period. Getting to this point has always been highly competitive because the Madison Police Department has a well-earned reputation for being among the very best in the nation. But this year was extraordinary. These 13 recruits represented the top 1% of the record 1,700 people who applied for these jobs.
And it's not just that these are the best of the best applicants. They also reflect our community. I'm always impressed by the life experiences and educational backgrounds of our new officers. This year's class included those trained in subjects as diverse as physics, anthropology and history (we even have an English teacher, so I expect those police reports will become better organized now and more compelling - reports that begin with, "It was a dark and stormy night" will not be acceptable). Ages ranged from early 20s to late 30s, and four women joined nine men.
This class is special because they will be the first to take their training at our brand new police training facility. This state-of-the-art facility underscores our commitment to train our officers like no other city in the country.
Actually, this year there have been two classes - an accelerated academy that started in February and the regular academy, which kicked off yesterday. Between the two academies, 18 new police officers will be trained to replace those who are retiring or leaving the force for other reasons this year.
And while we aren't adding any additional sworn positions in this tight budget year, we have moved officers from administrative positions into frontline jobs. So, we were able to create a Crime Prevention and Gang Unit with six officers, tripling its size. And, of course, we've increased the number of sworn police officers by 56 to a total of 438 since I took office in 2003.
But as I told the new recruits, it's not just about numbers of cops or how much police resources we throw at the problem. Their job is not so much to fight crime as to be part of a citywide effort to build the strong communities that prevent crime from happening in the first place. Reducing crime - and crime is down 17% from what it was in 1996 when Money Magazine called us the best place to live in America - is a communitywide effort, of which the police department is just one key part.