OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Forty-seven new officers joined the Oakland Police Department on Friday in a graduation ceremony for what the department said was the largest recruiting class in its history.

The 168th recruiting academy started with 57 recruits and 47 of them successfully completed the six-month curriculum.

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According to a news release issued by the department, Police Chief Sean Whent told graduates at the ceremony at the Scottish Rite Center near Lake Merritt that over the past half year “you have dedicated yourself to one of the finest police academies in the state.”

Whent said, according to the release, “It has not been easy, but nothing worth doing is ever easy.”

Whent added that policing is an honorable profession rooted in service to others, telling the new officers, “You will find that helping others is the most rewarding part of this job. You earned the opportunity to be one of the trusted few who responds when people, in times of need, call.”

Police Department officials said the addition of the 47 graduates is an important step in their ongoing effort to increase the number of officers they have to help them improve public safety in Oakland. The department, which had 837 officers six years ago but dropped to the low 600s recently, will now have 659 officers.

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Police officials said Oakland’s diversity was reflected in the recruiting class, as many of the graduates speak a second language, including Spanish, Tongan, Farsi, Punjabi, Pashto, Vietnamese, Polish, Italian, Arabic and Samoan.

However, only six of the 47 graduates are women.

Officer Matthew Petty was honored as class valedictorian for earning the highest overall academic and performance standing in the class.

Among those who attended the ceremony were Mayor Jean Quan and City Administrator Fred Blackwell.

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