ALBANY, Ga. - Twelve new Albany police officers swore their oaths Monday and were presented their badges by Chief John Proctor in a ceremony at the Law Enforcement Center.
The ceremony is a tradition among police and is the final step before the recruits are welcomed into the ranks of the Albany Police Department.
During the ceremony Monday, APD Deputy Chief Wilma Griffin said the recruits had a long journey ahead of them and that the ceremony is only a beginning.
"They have had 10 rigorous and challenging weeks of training," Griffin said of the recruits. "This is the first step ... Hang in there and keep your integrity intact."
During his speech Monday, Proctor urged the officers to view the department as a family unit and to prize their integrity and honor above all things.
"I don't take this oath lightly," said Proctor to those gathered at the ceremony. "You are in an honorable profession ... and it's a thankless job, but someone has to do it."
The chief also noted the rigors of officers' duties on themselves and their families and the importance of having a strong foundation of support.
"You are just as important in this mission as they are," Proctor said to the recruits' families who had gathered at the ceremony.
Jacquelyn Nelson, 24, said it was an honor to finally be pinned with her officer's badge.
"I feel great," she said. "(The hard work) has paid off, and I'm ready for everything that comes with the territory."
Nelson said she first became interested in becoming a police officer while she was studying forensic science at Albany State University.
The recent graduate said what she found most challenging about her 10-week training was firearms.
"The firearms part was a challenge for me because I had never really handled a weapon before, but now I'm confident with (using a firearm) and ready," said Nelson.
Nelson and the rest of the new officers will now roll onto the streets of Albany and help Proctor alleviate a chronic shortage of officers that has plagued the department.
With as many as 40 officer vacancies at one time, Proctor has assured the Albany City Commission that the ranks will be up to full force by the end of the year.