The Milford Police Academy held its 2019 graduation ceremony July 10 at the Parsons Government Center in Milford, graduating 24 officers who now head to work at various departments in the state.

When they entered the 30-week academy, Milford Police Chief Keith Mello handed the class a rock, one rock, which the trainees carried with them as a team through the hours of training, exercise, studying and testing. After graduating and taking their oaths of office, surrounded by family, friends and fellow officers, they gave it back to the chief, with the assurance that the rock was now more worn and conditioned, and had come to represent the unity and solidarity of the entire class.

Michael Jarvis was chosen to speak on behalf of his fellow graduates, and he spoke of the ups and downs, the hardships and the drills that tested their endurance.

On orientation day, “everybody still had their hair,” he said, adding that even though they managed the haircuts, they were not prepared for what followed. It was loud, physical and demanding. And that was just the first day, Jarvis said.

“We were told the next day would be even harder,” he said.

The graduates were a diverse group, from different backgrounds and different ages, but their differences brought them together. Despite the fact that many of them were told that police work is different today than it was in the past, Jarvis said, “We are proud to be entering this profession in this day and age.”

Times are always changing, “and that’s okay,” Jarvis said, ending with a special message to one of the academy instructors. He said the graduates are ready for the work ahead of them and they will work hard.

Chief Mello said the recruits spent the number of hours in training that amounted to two years in college. After 35 exams, their class average was 94.68 and the top grade point average was a 99.05.

“You have been tested, both mentally and physically in many ways,” Mello said, “but the real test comes when you get behind the badge. It comes on the first day you climb into a patrol car on your own and handle your first call.”

He told them and their families that they’ve learned the basics — criminal and constitutional law, search and seizure, motor vehicle enforcement, and more, as well as ethics, integrity and fairness.

“You will often have to make complex decisions in seconds that the courts, the media and the public will dissect for years,” Mello said. “We make those decisions in order to keep others safe. That’s what we do, we keep people safe. Not just physically safe, but we also safeguard their rights and their constitutional protections.”

“This,” Mello said, “is the core of our profession.”

After the officers took their oaths, and following a presentation of several awards, the graduates smiled for photos with family and friends.

Eric Hoff stood with his best friend, Milford Patrolman Steven Loschiavo, who helped convince him to enroll in the academy.

“He always wanted to,” Loschiavo said, “I just pushed him.”

“It was tough, it was long,” Hoff said with a smile, adding that he was very proud to be starting his new job as a Milford police officer in the morning.

Patrolman First Class Michael DeVito spent many hours working with the 24 new officers, and he said the class stood out in its ability to steadily improve as the weeks of the academy went by.

“From the start to the end, they made strides as a group and individually,” DeVito said.

Following is the list of graduates and the police departments they join.

Milford Police Department: Milton Andrade, Susan Clark, Patrick Flynn, Eric Hoff, Kayleigh Kish, Brianna MacDonald and Sam Noss.

New Canaan Police Department: Annamaria Ceci.

New Haven Police Department: Thomas Arnone, Nikko Cari, Ashley McKernan and Jacob Wright.

New London Police Department: Joseph Hajj and Michael Jarvis.

North Haven Police Department: Michael Stephens.

Stratford Police Department: Christine Bittner and Stephanie LeBlanc.

Seymour Police Department: David Butler and Herrera Ismael.

West Hartford Police Department: Lamar Browsky.

West Haven Police Department: Cody Bacon, Constantinos Gakidis, Antonio Massaro and Ryan Moore.