WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — The Winston-Salem Police Department has added 15 new officers to in hopes of closing the gap on its more than 100 vacant positions.

On Friday, Academy Class 77 were given their badges after more than eight months of intense training. Many of the new officers are from the city, while others grew up just outside of Winston-Salem.

On their application, each officer gave the reason they wanted to join the police force. Recruit Francisco Garcia told FOX8 that he wanted to make a difference and stop the violence before it starts.

Before he was an officer, Garcia was also an EMT.

“[As an EMT] there wasn’t much I could do. I could treat [victims]. As a police officer, I might be able to prevent it,” he said.

The news boots on the ground are crucial for the Winston-Salem Police Department and the city that continues to deal with an increase in violence crimes, a lot of which is linked to juveniles.

At a Wednesday forum on gun violence in Winston-Salem, Police Chief Catrina Thompson explained that she wants more officers just as much as the community.

The chief also went into detail about the struggles the department has seen in recent years.Their recruitment classes usual draw in about 2,500 applications a year and end up with class sizes of about 40 cadets.

Recently, they have been just shy of 200 applications a year, which have led to class sizes of about 23 to 25. Class 77 started with about 23 cadets before eight dropped out.

“Class started back in October. By the time we were halfway, we had already lost four…we have had 17 retirements this year, so these 15 won’t even be able to cover those 17 we’ve already lost,” Thompson said.

The new officers will enter field training at the start of June, which, Chief Thompson explained, statistically leads to one or two officers quitting.

Cadets told FOX8 the news on the shortage is what fueled their passion to apply for the job. Now that they have it, they want to make a positive change in their city. The graduation class included:

  • Officer Luke Alderman
  • Officer Emanual Avila-Herrera
  • Officer Maxwell Bovard
  • Officer Dylan Cardwell
  • Officer Andrew Conway
  • Officer Francisco Garcia
  • Officer Edras Granados
  • Officer Danny Muhammad
  • Officer Trae Neumann
  • Officer James Nolette
  • Officer Trevor Rose
  • Officer Alexandra Sebastyn
  • Officer Taylor Shoemaker
  • Officer Benjamin Stamey
  • Officer Nathan Wise