The 153rd class of New Jersey State Police troopers were Friday presented with badges during a graduation ceremony at Elizabeth High School, and officials said the troopers — 54 percent of them minorities — are the most racially diverse group in the state's history.
"The 153rd class represents a major step forward in our continuing effort to develop and maintain a State Police force that reflects the diverse population it serves," Gov. Chris Christie said in a statement.
The 118 graduating troopers include 30 Hispanics, 19 African Americans, six Asians, one American Indian and four people who identify as "other." Seventy-four percent of those in the 153rd Class has a Bachelor's Degree or higher, while 16 percent have prior military service.
Also at the ceremony awards were presented to those who showed exemplary performance in academics, firearms proficiency and physical training.
The class underwent 24 weeks of physical and academic training, including role-playing exercises focused on situations dealing with domestic violence and cultural diversity. Troopers-in-training are also required to be away from their families for long periods of time. While the class was in the academy, seven recruits dealt with deaths in the family, three recruits were married and three welcomed the births of children.
The new troopers, who will first undergo a probationary period, will over the next 11 weeks begin their careers under the watch of trooper-coaches and supervisors at stations throughout the state.
"The 118 men and women of the 153rd Class entered on day one as individuals, and are now leaving as a unified team," Commandant of the New Jersey State Police Academy Julian Castellanos said in a statement. "They successfully completed the transformation from civilian to highly-skilled law enforcement professional, and are ready to begin their careers as protectors of the citizens of New Jersey.