Milford Police Academy has largest ever graduating class

Milford Police Academy has a total of 53 graduates, 10 of which will stay in Milford. The other graduates will go to work for other departments across the state.

Milford Police Academy has a total of 53 graduates, 10 of which will stay in Milford. The other graduates will go to work for other departments across the state.

Milford Police Department/Contributed

MILFORD — Even though the most recent Milford Police Academy graduating class was the largest on record, Milford Police Chief Keith Mello said there is still a need for more police officers in the city and throughout the state.

"The reason we did this is that there were many police departments that were in the same situation that we were, and that is they had an unprecedented number of vacancies due to attrition due to people leaving law enforcement early," said Mello. "To accommodate our needs, as well as the needs of other agencies, we took on a larger class."

Police academies with a large number of graduates are going to be a continuing trend because attrition rates are continuing to grow in law enforcement, Mello said.

"The other satellite academies and Meriden's main academy are all seeing increased demand (and) they are adding additional classes as well," he said. "However, what we do in Milford will have to be determined later. The need will be there, but I don't expect to do that large of a class in the future just because of the resources it takes."

This graduating class, officially known as Class 29, had 55 graduates from 14 different departments. Even though 10 of those graduates will join the Milford police, Mello said the need for new officer recruits is ongoing.

"By April, we will have seven more openings," he said.

When a police officer gets hired, it's 12 months before they can take their first call, explained Mello.

"For instance, those police officers that graduated are still not on their own in the field. They are still training," he said. "They have mandated 400 hours of field training they have to complete, and they won't take their first call until sometime in April."

There are four phases of field training graduates must complete under supervision and evaluation. If they fail to complete those phases satisfactorily, they are terminated.

"Once they successfully complete these phases, in April, they'll start a 12-month probationary period, which means the police officers will work under close evaluation and supervision for 12 months, and each month, they'll be re-evaluated, and a decision will be made to retain them or not," said Mello. "After the probationary period, then and only then, will they become certified police officers. These are state-mandated requirements. Every police officer in the state has to go through these."

Many of the graduates from Class 29 are women, and with Milford being part of the 30 by 30 national effort to have 30 percent of departments consist of women by the year 2030, Mello said Milford is well on its way to achieving the goal.

"We have been attracting more women to policing, which is great, and all of our classes organically have been 30 percent or greater women participation," he said. "I think women recognize that law enforcement is a good career and a career where they can be successful."

Within the Milford Police Department, there are women represented in every part of the agency, Mello said.

"From our detective bureau to our training unit, our patrol division, our crime prevention unit," he said. "In fact, in our crime division and polygraph unit, the majority are women, and we are proud of that."

Adding to the department's diversity, Mello said, the department includes officers that speak seven languages (Spanish, German, Italian, Korean, Polish, Portuguese and Arabic) besides English.

"We've been fortunate to see a diverse group in our candidate pool, diverse language skills, and a diverse ethnicity," he said. "Those things, for the most part, are happening organically."

Even though Class 29 was the biggest graduating class from Milford's Police Academy, Mello said there are far fewer people applying to be police officers.

A few years ago, there might have been hundreds of applicants for 10 openings, Mello said. Now, a similar job posting might draw 80 applicants, and three or four departments could be drawing from the same applicant pool.

"Policing is stressful, and you're often dealing with people at their worst, that's not so attractive for people. So a way to put this is policing isn't trending these days," he said. "So those young men and women who want to be police officers are looking for departments offering higher pay and better benefits, but they also want to work in communities that support them and appreciate them."