The Glendale Police Department swore in four rookie officers earlier this month after they graduated from the police academy, though plenty of training in the field still lies ahead.
On Aug. 14, Officer Matthew Stafford, Officer Dylan Montes, Officer Russell Stiverson and Officer Ricardo Rodriguez took an oath to join the force. Their training lasted nearly six months at the Orange County Sheriff's Academy in Tustin.
For Rodriguez, 22, earning his badge brings full circle the dream of following in the footsteps of his father, Glendale Lt. Oscar Rodriguez. Coincidentally, they both received a special achievement award for top physical fitness in their respective graduating classes.
"Ever since I was a kid, [my dad] would come with his undercover car and stop by my classroom," Ricardo Rodriguez said. "Ever since then, I always wanted to be a cop."
He'll start patrolling Glendale streets in the coming weeks with a training officer and remain on probation for one year.
Leading up to this first day, Ricardo Rodriguez said he's feeling a lot of emotions.
"Everything from really excited to really nervous," he said, adding: "But I feel confident and I'm going to try my best no matter what."
The typical batch of new recruits to join the force ranges from one to five recruits, said Sgt. Patrick Magtoto.
"The past several years, GPD has been on a hiring spree with multiple openings," he said. "We hire based on openings and anticipated openings, and we are coming close to filling our vacancies."
Also to join the police department in recent months were Officer Jimmy Mercado and Reserve Officer Gustavo Romero. Mercado was a lateral hire, meaning he didn't have to attend the academy because he was already an officer working for Los Angeles Airport Police.
Romero attended a version of the academy that took place every other Sunday because the position of a reserve officer is on a volunteer basis.
Each new recruit started the hiring process with an application followed by a series of mental and physical tests as well as background checks.
In the end, about one out of a 100 applicants for a position ended up getting a job, said Glendale Police Chief Rob Castro.
Castro started his law enforcement career in Glendora nearly 30 years ago and said he's proud of the new recruits. He added, however, much more is expected from officers today than when he was a rookie.
"We're expected to be mental health experts … they expect us to be compassionate and find ways of dealing with the homeless, making sure we protect their rights, and we can't allow the homeless to disrupt businesses or quality of life for people," he said.
Castro also noted that of the new recruits, Montes was an emergency medical technician and Stafford was an emergency-room technician and CPR instructor.
The chief said he would like to hire more officers with medical emergency backgrounds and allow current officers to receive training in rendering aid because officers are often first responders to emergency calls.
The goal is to complement services offered by the Los Angeles Fire Department, Castro added.
"My hope is we can have a couple of EMT officers on every shift, so we can help provide some immediate medical assistance," he said. "We're not replacing fire [services], we're supplementing them."