The territory welcomed 19 new members to the law enforcement family Friday as St. Croix recruits took the oath to protect and serve the Virgin Islands.

The territory’s Police Academy held a commencement ceremony for the Recruit Training Class 2021-1 “Silverbacks” and the Auxiliary Training Class 2021-1 “Avengers” at the D.C. Canegata Recreational Center on St. Croix.

“I know you were faced with many challenges in light of this COVID-19 pandemic, but you were able to adapt and overcome, and you are here today,” Peace Officer Training Executive Director Gleston McIntosh said.

During the six-month course, recruits were physically and mentally prepared as they studied topics including interpersonal communication, de-escalation, defensive tactics, constitutional law and the V.I. Code.

“Some of us were advised on what to do and what to say, some of us worked out hard prior to coming into the class, some came in as blank canvases ready to be molded, but nothing would prepare us for the tough love we received that day,” class speaker Akima Benjamin said.

Benjamin, who will work at Luis Hospital, was also one of two officers awarded for having the highest grade point average in the class.

“I speak for the class when I say that we are honored to be taught by VIPD’s best, and we sincerely appreciate the academy for its efforts to maintain a high standard of law enforcement for these Virgin Islands,” Benjamin said.

Fifteen graduates from the class will go on to work for the V.I. Police Department, Luis Hospital, Governor’s Office, Corrections Bureau, V.I. Legislature and Department of Planning and Natural Resources.

“Be patient with us as we go out and embark on this adventure, not only this adventure, but this career. Be patient with us, not only to make sure that we achieve our goals, but that we always bring peace within the Virgin Islands,” auxiliary training class speaker Careeme Smith said.

Four graduates from the auxiliary training class will work to support the Police Department.

“Thank you for taking this step toward making a better and safer Virgin Islands for everyone,” newly appointed St. Croix Police Chief Sean Santos said.

Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. and Police Commissioner nominee Ray Martinez both extended congratulations and encouragement to the new officers.