Scott Ball / Rivard Report
The San Antonio Police Department and several City officials welcomed 50 new cadets to the San Antonio Police Academy on Monday, marking the largest incoming cadet class of the year.
This group is the third of four cadet classes scheduled for training in 2017. Out of 87 cadets appointed during January and April classes, 67 are expected to graduate before the end of the year, according to a document provided to the Rivard Report.
"If you’re here because you think that you can make a difference, and you like the idea of being able to help people numerous times everyday, then you’re here for the exact right reason," Police Chief William McManus told a classroom full of attentive cadets.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg, City Manager Sheryl Sculley, and Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (D7) joined McManus in offering welcoming remarks to the cadets. But shadowing the welcome was the reality that three police officers had been shot on duty so far in 2017.
"Take very seriously the training you’ll receive here at the academy," Sculley said to the cadets. "Because that will help you as you deliver services under some very difficult situations.”
Officer Miguel Moreno was killed during a crime prevention patrol near downtown in June. His partner, Officer Julio Cavazos, was also shot and wounded during that fatal exchange. Last week, Officer Nathan Becerra was shot in the stomach while engaging with a robbery suspect on the city's Northwest side and remains hospitalized.
"You know this is not an easy job," Nirenberg said to the cadets. "It’s probably the hardest job you can choose to go pursue."
Such threats didn't deter Channing Hill, who is one of the 49 cadets (one of the cadets is going to be an arson investigator, which does not count toward the total number of SAPD sworn staff) hoping to be sworn in as a San Antonio police officers in March 2018. He wants to make a difference in his community and sees the SAPD as the best avenue toward achieving that, despite readily apparent dangers the occupation poses.
"It does concern me,” Hill said to reporters. “But that’s something that we realize when we sign up for the position – that that’s a possibility, that that could happen. You know, we pray and we hope that that never does happen, and we don’t come to that."
Despite the recent shootings, McManus sought to instill optimism in the cadets. He credited responses from the San Antonio community for his beliefs on improving conditions for police officers.
"Several months back, maybe a little further than that, I was telling cadet classes that this is a very very difficult time to be a police officer, and in fact it was," McManus said. "I would tell you now that you were joining the police department at a very, very good time."
Prompted by McManus, San Antonio native and first-time Councilwoman Sandoval offered remarks on the cadet's forthcoming role in the community.
"Your job is going to be to protect the community that I grew up in," Sandoval said. "So please take that very seriously, and take it to heart."
The department's community representation was a point of focus for several of the remarks made during the event. The class is made up of 24 Hispanic cadets, 21 Caucasian cadets, five black Cadets, and one Asian-American. Seven women are among the cadets in the academy's classroom.
"We’re still working on adding more women to the department," Sculley remarked. "But I’m glad to see so many women in this class."
Sculley noted the increase in female officers since she and McManus first began working together in 2006, adding that 67% of the women in the department were appointed in the last decade, and that women now make up 10% of San Antonio's police force.
There are currently 2,246 sworn police officers filling 2,407 officer positions authorized by City Council in the 2017 budget. Speaking with reporters after delivering her remarks to the cadets, Sculley stated she would attempt to increase those numbers for the 2018 budget.
"We plan to have five more academy staff classes over the next year," Sculley said. "I’ll be proposing the budget to the mayor and city council on Aug. 10 and recommending adding additional officers beyond the 2,400 that we have authorized.”
Those currently enrolled in this year's third cadet class have a demanding few months ahead of them. But for cadets like Hill, the challenge is only the beginning of a fulfilling occupation serving the community.
"It’s going to be challenging, but worth it in the end."