LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) — The streets of Little Rock just got that much safer. Twenty-two members of the 88th recruiting class graduated today.
THV11's Winnie Wright spoke with the recruits back in August, when they were facing a period of high crime. She spoke with those same recruits today and tells us how they've grown and what they've learned.
"Finally, six months. I'm so glad it is finally over. It has been a long process, but hey, the training staff here are very incredible and they have made me become who I am today,” LRPD recruit Scottie Lackland said.
He was honored as one of the presenters at Friday's recruitment graduation ceremony, full of confidence, getting tons of laughs.
It was just six months ago when Winnie Wright interviewed Lackland at his first week in the academy.
"I want to get the drugs off the street. I feel like the drugs cause a lot of problems. So I really just want to focus on weapons and drugs, getting them off the street,” he said then, at a time the City was plagued with rising violence.
Lackland's fellow recruit Emanuel Estrada knew the threat and was ready to tackle it head-on.
"It's definitely something to be nervous about. I don't feel like you can ever be truly comfortable around a gang or any gang members, but I feel like, regardless, they will put me through the right training. They've set up the right standards. So I feel like that will prepare me for the situation when it needs to be called," he said then.
Friday, Winnie Wright asked Estrada how he feels to have come full-circle.
"I'm relaxed, I feel like I'm ready to go out on the street and help now," Estrada said. "I'm definitely anticipating it. I'm a little bit nervous, just because I feel like, you know what, it's going to be me interacting with real people, real scenarios, so I'm looking forward to it."
Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola said the more events the City has like Friday's, and the more recruits they get out on the streets, the closer the City of Little Rock gets to ending its officer shortage.
"We've worked hard over the last year to fill these police vacancies," Stodola said. "We hired 81 officers this past year. We have 25 vacancies, which is typical when you have retirements and resignations through the year. In February, we are going to have a class of 20-25, so we have basically eliminated that shortage.”
The officers will spend many more months riding along with other officers before they're on their own.
As Mayor Stodola said, the next police recruit class will begin this month.