South Bend P.D welcomes largest graduating class in recent history; on track to be fully staffed by summer

NOW: South Bend P.D welcomes largest graduating class in recent history; on track to be fully staffed by summer

SOUTH BEND, Ind.---- 

Police Departments across the country have been facing officer shortages, but today things are looking up for the South Bend Police Force. 

21 Officers successfully completed the new accelerated 16 week, in house academy, the department told ABC57 it's the largest class in recent history. They graduated today at Washington High School in South Bend, after being only the second class to complete a new accelerated training program, hosted "inhouse" in South Bend. 

16 recruits will join South Bend P.D, 2 joining the Laporte County Sherriff's Office, 2 joining the Elkhart Police Department, and one going to the St. Joseph County Police Department. 

"it’s a fantastic day for the south bend police department, as well as our local agencies… St. Joesph County, the laporte county police department, and the Elkhart city police department," said Assistant Chief for SBPD, Dan Skibins. 

After 4 months of training, class president Josh Pennington is one of 16 officers joining South Bend PD. He addressed his fellow graduates in his speech, and encouraged them to remember the "why behind what they are doing, as they enter their chosen forces. 

"theres a purpose.. theres a reason… the why behind it… it means more than anything, especially in law enforcement, theres a why behind why we are doing everything we do, " said Pennington .

His "why" behind entering a field many are turning away from,

"I've never wanted to do anything else…in my life I've always wanted to be a police officer, since I was a kid so that’s kind of what kept me going and kept me motivated even though, we have our doubts, we have our worries about things, because there is a sense of fear that I think there is," he added. 

The vice president of the Tier One Basic Class 22-228, Spencer Davis, also reflected on his why, during the big day that many officers still reflect back on. 

"to have the opportunity to do it, and I really want to do it well, and be successful, and really just be a light in the community," he said. 

He also added, 

"just a heart to serve the city, to really be the best officer I can be, and through all the challenges really watching the guys who were you know, here training us in South Bend, and just knowing that they’ve had long careers, and I can do the same".

The South Bend Police Department officials credit the Prospect Days started last summer for the large class of newcomers, as well as expediting the hiring process by condensing testing schedules and bring the training to South Bend. 

"the learning environment is very important…definitely want them to consider each other brothers and sisters when they go through the academy," said Skibins who still rememebers his graduation day 25 years ago. 

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