Even Before Oath, Reminders That Being a Police Officer Isn’t Easy

Hair buzzed or in buns, hands pressed to knees, backs as ramrod straight as the cushioned burgundy seats of the Queens College auditorium would allow, more than 800 new recruits sat waiting Thursday to be sworn in to the New York Police Department.

If they were nervous about the training to come at the Police Academy or the myriad dangerous and difficult tasks they would eventually be called on to perform as officers, it could not be discerned in the strict precision of their body language.

“This is a paramilitary organization,” barked one officer, a woman in dress uniform who prowled the aisles in advance of the ceremony’s noon start to make sure that every recruit kept “Eyes forward!” and “Hands on your knees!”

“If you don’t like it – leave!”

Toward the front, a recruit appeared to have moved a hand from his knee.

The officer noticed.

“You couldn’t fight the urge to scratch your nose?” she said, her voice filling the large room. The recruit flashed a momentary smile. “This is not funny,” she scolded. “It is not a game. When you’re told to do something, you do it!”

Such strictness served a purpose, she explained: “Without self-discipline, this department would fall apart. Everything would fall apart.”

Nearly a quarter of the recruits in the January 2013 class – average age 26 – were born overseas, with 51 different countries represented, from Albania to Yemen, according to the Police Department. (At least one recruit was born in the tiny Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. Population: less than many city parades.)

About 43 percent have college degrees, and 38 had been in the military, with more than a dozen serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. The class of 830 recruits is roughly half white, 27 percent Hispanic, 13 percent black and 10 percent Asian, the police said.

“This is a pretty representative class,” said Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly.

One member of the class, Katrina Narvaez, was the daughter of a police lieutenant killed in 1996 while responding to a domestic violence call.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg called on Ms. Narvaez, 25, to stand at one point during his address to the recruits, praising her bravery.

“As a father of two daughters I can tell you I know your father is looking down right now and is so proud of you,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “So on behalf of 8.4 million people – and I hate to single you out among all these people – but you go get ‘em girl.”

Ms. Narvaez’s father, Federico, died after being shot in the face at close range in Flatbush, Brooklyn, by a man whose criminal history stretched back four decades. The gunman, a 61-year-old parolee, was killed in a shootout with the police.

After she was sworn in, Ms. Narvaez, who was 9 when her father was killed, said she joined the police out of a desire to help people.

“I wanted to do something that would make my dad proud and my mom proud,” she said. She added that some in her family were concerned about her future as a police officer. “They were worried about me. They push college,” she said.

Ms. Narvaez was until recently an archaeology student at Hunter College. She said that had she not been called up to join the recruit class, she would now be finishing her last semester. She said she intended to go back eventually and get her diploma.

“Welcome aboard,” Commissioner Kelly told her, before turning to update the assembled reporters on the news of the day: two recent shootings, a mysterious death in Brooklyn, a ferry accident and a foiled bomb plot.

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