SAN ANTONIO - It's the largest police cadet class in years.
Forty-four men and 6 women will undergo rigorous training to be a future San Antonio police officer.
Another classmate, also a woman, is also training to become an arson investigator.
This happens as the department struggles with an officer shortage during a rough year for the San Antonio community.
"It's been something I've wanted to do since I was a child," San Antonio Police Cadet, Channing Hill said.
Hill is one of 50 cadets aspiring to put on a badge and take the oath. Monday was his first day.
"Working with the police department, I felt that was the best opportunity to work with the community and keep people safe," Hill said.
The 2017 cadet class is the largest in years, San Antonio Mayor, Ron Nirenberg said.
"This is an elite police department in the country," Nirenberg said. "A strong quality of life is built on the work they will be doing and for policing that means building relationships with the community that they serve."
Even with Monday's class, SAPD is still short 111 officers.
The department is hoping to fill many of those positions with women, who currently make up 10 percent of the force.
That's up from 3 percent in 2006 when San Antonio Police Chief William McManus took office.
"Our department is very racially diverse. It reflects the community we serve and we know that one area that we need improvement is more women within the ranks and within the upper ranks," San Antonio City Manager, Sheryl Sculley said.
SAPD boasts competitive wages and benefits.
This includes salaries from $42,732 yearly to $67,008 a year based on incentives, hiring bonuses of $7,500 to new recruits and candidates with prior law enforcement experience, and $15,000 to purchase a home.
The average 20-year SAPD officer receives a $124,668 annual compensation package, including base wages and special pay and benefits, which is second only to Austin.
"We have on average about five to six officers leaving the department on a monthly basis," Sculley said. "We have a force of 2,400, so we're constantly recruiting."
It's a job each recruit knows comes with danger.
Within the past year, four SAPD officers have been shot in the line of duty. Officer Miguel Moreno and Detective Benjamin Marconi were killed.
"That's something that we realize when we sign up for the position," Hill said. "That that's a possibility that could happen. We pray and hope that never does happen and we don't come to that."
Graduation for this cadet class will be March 16, 2018.
"It's gonna be challenging," Hill said. "It's going to be worth it in the end."
Five more academy classes are planned over the next year. Sculley also plans to recommend adding additional officers to the existing 2,400 when city council discusses the new budget August 10.
For more information on incentives, benefits and salaries for members of the San Antonio Police Department, click here.
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