NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – 20 recruits have officially been welcomed to the ranks. It comes at a tense time for the New Haven Police Department.

The department is facing public scrutiny after a New Haven man was badly injured in police custody last month. Newly sworn-in Police Chief Karl Jacobson is working on increasing community engagement.

At a graduation ceremony in Woolsey Hall Wednesday night, Jacobson told graduates to approach each day with compassion.

“We have to understand this uniform does not mean positive things for everybody in our community,” he said. “Remember people call us in an emergency, in a time of need. It’s the worst time possible in their life and they don’t need anything but hope and love and care.”

The graduates, class XXV, consisted of 21 recruits. 20 will be joining New Haven police and one will be joining Ridgefield police. Out of the 20, there were 3 women and 17 men. More than half are people of color.

26-year-old Christopher Nguyen was pinned by his older brother, a fellow police officer. He says he’s ready to mend relationships with the public as an officer.

“Right now, in an age where policing has a really bad name, I just want to go out there and show them a different side of policing and just make a difference,” he told News 8.

As of the end of May, the department is down 71 officers, according to the city’s monthly budget report. Police departments all over the state have been experiencing a staffing shortage and a dip in recruitment.

Most officers say they’ve wanted to be a police officer since they were a kid, following in the steps of someone in their family who is much older. But one graduate was inspired by his children.

At 55 years old, the oldest of the class, Hector Rosado says he was in the academy years ago but failed. When his sons took the oath nearly six years ago, he decided to try again. 

“They started it, and I want to continue that legacy,” said Rosado.

“I couldn’t be happier to go behind my dad. Now he has another family to back him up when he’s out here in New Haven,” said Justin Rosado, Hector Rosado’s son and an officer with the Stratford police department.