Boston Police Department welcomes 115 new officers to the force

Stephanie Villegas-Hoag said getting her police badge pinned on her uniform Wednesday was “an incredible feeling.”

It was a day that she and her fellow officers had been looking forward to since they started at the Boston Police Academy in December.

“It’s been a long journey,” she said.

Villegas-Hoag, 30, previously spent eight years in the Army and served overseas in Afghanistan, Jordan, and Lebanon. After being sworn in as one of Boston’s newest police officers, she’s now looking forward to getting to work in the city and “the chance to give back.”

Villegas-Hoag was among the 115 police recruits in Class 58-18 who took the oath at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center on Wednesday. She also received the academy’s physical fitness award.

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh spoke at the graduation ceremony and thanked the class of police recruits for being “willing to take on one of the toughest, most important jobs in the world.”

“You are joining the first and the finest and the best police force in the United States,” Walsh said. “And I congratulate you on this honor.”

Noting that the population in Boston has grown in recent years, Walsh credited the efforts of the Boston Police Department for keeping crime down.

“For the first time in over 50 years, we have 700,000 people living in the city of Boston,” he said. “A big reason for our success in the city of Boston is our safety. Even as our city has grown in the last five years, our crime rate has fallen roughly 25 percent over that same time. This year alone, major crimes are down by 10 percent. We have one of the safest big cities in America. And that’s thanks to the incredible work of our police officers.”

Walsh told the graduating class that they are “respected role models and guardians for the safety of our city.”

“This is a job that’s constantly evolving,” he said. “And we ask more of our officers now than ever before. It’s more than responding to emergencies. It’s being part of a support system for our communities, working with public health, social services, and working with youth professionals. I want you to know that your city will always support you in this work.”

“It takes a special kind of person to be a good police officer and you all have proven you have what it takes to make our city proud,” Walsh said.

Boston Police Commissioner William Gross said Class 58-18 was one of the largest academy classes to graduate since the mid-1980s.

Gross thanked the mayor for the support that he’s shown to the department.

“When we saw this city was growing, and that we needed to enhance our numbers so that we can do our jobs, the mayor never wavered,” Gross said.

Gross also pointed out the diversity of the class, which included 62 white, 23 black, 26 Hispanic, and four Asian recruits.

“Our police department should reflect every neighborhood that we serve, and we’re well on the way,” he said.

Gross told the recruits that they were about to start a job that isn’t easy.

“Not everyone wants this profession,” Gross said. “But you are the chosen. I want you to go forth with pride in knowing that. This is an honorable job. You’re here to save lives, to change lives.”

Officer Matthew K. Gaffey, the class’s president, spoke at the ceremony and congratulated his fellow recruits.

“Many of us have been waiting most of our lives to be here today,” he said. “All of us stood and fought to be here today.”

“We reached a milestone here today,” Gaffey said. “Be proud of it. We met as strangers in a chaotic place. But together we saw it through to the end as brothers and sisters. Be proud of yourselves and each other. We earned it. Never forget your training and never quit.”

Gaffey also thanked the staff of the police academy.

“Your dedication preparing us for the realities of the job was not lost on us,” he said.