NORFOLK, Va. — Eighteen recruits are ready to proudly wear the Norfolk Police Department badge.
For Benjamin Thorpe, it means carrying on the family legacy.
“My granddad retired from here," he said. "He did 40 years here. So growing up, I guess in the Norfolk Police Department’s family.”
The training, benefits and word of mouth from friends are what attracted Dylan Miculita.
“They said as long as you’re proactive in the community, and that’s where I want to be at, proactive in the community, and make sure that everybody knows that we’re here to help them,” Miculita said.
Over the last few months, they have trained extensively.
“Going to the range doing defensive tactics," said Master Police Officer Matt Burnham. "Doing physical skills, mental skills.”
They've learned ethics, firearms, defensive driving and fair and impartial policing.
"They have to pass every single objective," Burnham said.
"The state makes us run them through approximately 1,275 objectives. Each one needs to be tested either physically or in a written manner, and they have to meet every single one of these objectives with a 100% pass rate."
That's why it's common to see the number of recruits fall throughout the academy process.
Burnham said this class originally started with 26 recruits, but some did not make the grades to pass. Others realized this career isn't right for them.
Thorpe and Miculita said they’re eager to hit the streets and fill gaps in the department as it faces hundreds of vacancies.
“They’re stressed," Thorpe said. "But I’m happy to be able to come in at this time to help the other officers. They need us.”
According to a police spokesperson, the department reported 227 vacancies as of October.
But efforts are ongoing to fill those positions. Burnham said recruit classes are getting larger and the department is seeing more applications.
“If it is a wave, then it is the beginning of a wave, and we need to capitalize on that fact and attract more decent, hardworking candidates," he said.
This class is expected to graduate December 15. A new group of 24 recruits are expected to start Monday.
The police department has dedicated itself to three police academies a year.