Oakland officers graduate; ceremony speaks of rebuilding trust

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After a steady stream of bad news in recent months, the Oakland Police Department had reason to celebrate on Friday.

35 men and nine women joined the ranks of the force. The graduation ceremony was traditional, but one that spoke of rebuilding trust.

It was a day of celebration and recognition of the sacrifices that the young officers are making to keep the city safe, but it also came against the backdrop of alleged misconduct by officers who graduated before them.

The officers from the 174th academy are the first to hit the streets after two officers were charged with crimes in unrelated incidents off-duty and in another case, two of four officers under investigation for sexual misconducet with a girl, quit the force Wednesday.

Chief Sean Whent minced no words in addressing the young officers.

“As police officers, you now share our obligation to uphold our code of ethics, fundamentally serve humanity and to maintain an unsullied personal life, exemplary obeying the laws of the land and regulations of our department,” Whent said.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said the graduates will rise above the “scandal of off-duty conduct” that has “rocked” the department.

“They know what they’re getting into. They know that they are part of the change in policing that Oakland is determined to have,” said Schaaf.

Officer Pedram Farhang, the class valedictorian, agrees.

“Touching back on why we’re here, what we have, the virtues and values that we possess and we have to be steadfast in maintaining that,” said Farhang. 

“We’re going to have struggling times, but I think that we have the opportunity to make a change,” said Officer Lillian Arenas.

The mayor also referred to the forced resignation of San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr. “I am glad to have him [Whent] as my chief,” she said.

Chief Whent said his message is clear. “Tell them up front what our expectations are. We’re hiring good people and I’m sure they’re going to do a good job.”

The new officers have 16 weeks of field training to go, which means more time to prove to themselves, their supervisors and the community that they have what it takes to patrol Oakland.