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Police graduates enter force with motivation to serve

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Anthony Anderson, right, graduates during the Oklahoma City Police Academy Recruit Class 132 graduation at First United Methodist Church, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Anthony Anderson, right, graduates during the Oklahoma City Police Academy Recruit Class 132 graduation at First United Methodist Church, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014.

Kelly Fry was nervous, proud, scared and a little teary-eyed.

His daughter, Rebecca, was one of 41 Oklahoma City Police Department academy graduates, a fresh group of men and women who will hit the streets in the coming weeks.

“It’s tough to sit and watch your daughter, the pride of your life, walk across the stage to take a job knowing it is potentially as dangerous as it could be,” Fry said. “It’s tough.”

Rebecca was one of six female graduates in a class that also included five bilingual officers and four African Americans — figures that are important as police departments across the country look for ways to diversify, especially in urban communities like OKC.

“Obviously there are a lot of challenges [to being a police officer] and the career isn’t for everybody,” said graduate James Runner. “But for the people it is for, it’s a calling. It’s an honor.”

In a time when YouTube videos of officers using deadly force in questionable ways and media reports that can paint police as callous individuals are readily available, a police academy graduation offers a raw look at the pure motives many officers have for joining the force.

“These guys have a big heart,” said Cpt. Juan Balderrama, a member of the department’s media relations team. “You have a bunch of eager people here. They are doing this not to get rich, not because its safe but because they want to make this a better place to live.”

The new graduates will enter a world where minorities are arrested at higher rates than whites, where mistrust of police appears to be at an all-time high — Pew Research reports 65 percent of Americans believe department only of a fair or poor job at handling officer accountability — and politics and cable news have turned a conversation about police actions into nightly talking points.

These new officers in Oklahoma City will not play a part in the national discussion on police actions, but graduate Alma Deloera said each officer plays an important role in building trust in the community.

“It’s up to us to continue building trust,” said Delora, who is fluent in Spanish and will join the department’s bilingual unit.

The desire to serve the community, which new graduates say led them to the complete the 28-week police academy, is evident to their family members who say police officers can often get an unfair reputation.

“She’s always wanted to do something for somebody else,” said Fry, Rebecca’s father. “So it doesn’t surprise me too much that she has become a [police officer]. It makes me nervous, but it doesn’t surprise me.”

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