Northern Virginia’s law enforcement community welcomed 73 new officers and deputies Monday.
Their graduation from the police academy comes amidst a trying time for law enforcement, as noted by the keynote speaker, Commonwealth’s Attorney and former officer Bryan Porter.
“Each of you today are becoming full fledged members of that family and that means each of you has lost five family members over the past few days and that is a very, very heavy toll,” he told the graduates.
The men and women took the Oath of Honor, vowing to protect and serve the public, inside George Mason University’s Concert Hall.
They represent police and deputies in Arlington County, the City of Alexandria, the City of Fairfax, the City of Falls Church, Loudoun County, just to name a few.
“It’s just been a dream so it’s good that it’s finally here,” said Andrea Bouman, a newly sworn-in Alexandria police officer.
She acknowledged the police tragedies in New York City weigh heavily on her mind.
“It makes me worry a little bit but I know that we’re all here to do a job, and we’re all here to do our part,” Bouman said.
Bouman's grandparents drove for 11 days from Oregon to be at the ceremony; they too have concerns, but turn to faith.
“God has a plan for her and, you know, you can love them as long as you have them and that’s what we’ll do,” said Cathy Morris.
Bouman also starts a job with increased scrutiny, following nationwide protests against police brutality.
Her message to others: “One police officer doesn’t represent all of us."
And her police chief echoes that sentiment.
“It’s a balance between those things that sometimes go right or wrong, but in total the profession is very honorable, they try to do the right thing every day, as evidence by these young people and young faces here today,” said Chief Earl Cook.
After two deployments to Iraq with the Marines, Richard Vergara decided he wasn't done with his service.
He wanted to be a police officer because of his father, also named Richard, who served on the NYPD for 20 years.
“It’s a great feeling to have them follow in your footsteps,” the elder Vergara said, referring to both his sons. Officer Vergara’s brother is a police officer in Hampton, Va.
Following the police killings in New York City, Vergara called his sons.
“I said, 'Just watch your back. Watch what you’re doing... who’s coming up to you. You have to be ever vigilant all the time. 24-7,’” he said.
But Officer Vergara is determined.
"That’s why we go into the profession though. You do it for more than yourself. It’s more for other people,” he said. “You’re always scared. It’s natural to be scared. It's just, ‘What do you do when you are scared?'”