FOX 32 NEWS - If one of the solutions to fixing Chicago’s violent crime problem is putting more officers on the street, the city took a step in that direction on Thursday.
The largest class of recruits in recent memory graduated at Navy Pier.
Bagpipers welcomed one of Chicago’s biggest class of police recruits onto the job: 108 brand new officers leaving the police academy for some of the city's toughest streets. Most classes are between 60 and 70.
"I want to congratulate you on this day,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Mayor Emanuel didn't try to hide what they're facing.
"This has been a difficult year... a challenging year not just for the police department but for the city,” he said.
The recruits join a department still dealing with the aftershocks of the Laquan McDonald police shooting video and a scathing Justice Department report detailing decades of excessive force and racism.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told the young officers they must focus on the words "professionalism, respect and trust" to rebuild the department's standing in the community.
"That's important for you to remember as you hit the streets. We're not expecting you to solve it on your own. We're expecting you to be part of the solution,” Johnson said.
"It's a challenge we want to accept and take on every day. That's the reason we all joined,” said new officer Eric Montoya.
This is also one of the most diverse Chicago Police graduating classes. Of the 108 recruits, fully 60 percent are minorities.
"I think the key is just going out there with a positive mind and knowing that you're going out there for the right purpose,” said new officer Lawrence Nickerson.
"I definitely feel as if he will be an asset to making the change we want to see as a community,” said Nickerson’s wife, Christina.
That DOJ report also criticized police policy for sending new recruits into the city's toughest neighborhoods with little experience.
Superintendent Johnson said that's no longer the case.
"The DOJ's problem with it is that sometimes they would be with each other. Now we're ensuring they'll either be with veteran officers or supervisors, so they won't be on their own,” Johnson said.
In addition to the police recruits, nearly 200 veteran officers also took part in Thursday ceremony as they graduated to a higher rank.