Philadelphia's newest officers hit the streets tomorrow

June 29, 2009 4:06:21 PM PDT
They are the final graduating class from the Police Academy - for now.

Family and friends packed McGonigle Hall in North Philadelphia today for the Philadelphia Police Academy graduation ceremony.

The city's budget problems have forced the department to implement a hiring freeze with no word on when they'll start recruiting again.

"Unless we get some relief in this upcoming budget, or the federal cops' grant comes through, that's it for a period of time," said Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey.

The good news for police brass is that with 152 new officers, today's graduating class was particularly large. Each is looking forward to the challenges that come with the job.

"My dad's a cop, my grandfather was a cop, so it's tradition," said new graduate Keith Samarco. "I just want to be able to protect the city."

"There's a lot of pride, dignity, honor," said new graduate Shavon Jones. "I feel very respected."

These ceremonies traditionally honor a police officer killed in the line of duty. But because of the recent rash of violence against city officers and the sheer size of this class, this time they honored four.

They include Officers Isabel Nazario, Chuck Cassidy, Gary Skerski and Sgt. Patrick McDonald. Members of these officers' families were given plaques recognizing their loved one's sacrifice.

"I'm very proud of the Philadelphia Police Department and the Police Academy for doing this," said McDonald's father, Larry McDonald. "How can you not be proud when they honor your son in such a way?"

The Academy's 355th class hits the streets of Philadelphia as newly minted police officers tomorrow morning.

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