AUSTIN, Texas - 66 officers joined the Austin Police Department Friday.
The officers were part of the department’s 144th cadet class. It is the first class to graduate after Austin City Council halted cadet classes in 2020 amid nationwide racial justice protests and calls for police reform.
"The George Floyd incident happened, and some people were still asking me, ‘do you still want to be a police officer after that?’ And I said, ‘I most certainly do.’ You know, if people are looking for good quality character people to be police officers, I want to be that- one of those people that you see that can help out and trust." said Officer Le’Von Griffin.
Griffin is captain of the 144th cadet class. The Longhorn served on the UTPD police force for five years. He has taught at Akins Early College High School in South Austin for the last ten.
The cadet class started with 100 recruits, graduating just 66. Officer Christian Adame said the decision to halt the class was taxing on recruits, leaving them in limbo.
He explained, "I worked on my previous job for a little bit, just kept exercising from there. It's something I wasn't sure if I was willing to move on from Austin or not, but I love the city. I told my significant other I was willing to stay with the process and work with it, and she was gladly able to help out with that for me."
Other recruits were part of an expedited program, like recent graduate Officer William Simonton.
"I grew up in a military and law enforcement family, so giving back to a community serving other people and just helping others is what I grew up around." Simonton said.
A third-party consulting firm oversaw the training program. Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon said the "reimagined" curriculum included additional training on implicit bias and community policing.
The department currently has 240 operational vacancies according to Chacon, who called the graduation "a start." A recent staffing study funded by the Greater Austin Area Crime Commission recommended adding 108 patrol positions to the department.