The Killeen Police Department welcomed seven new officers into its ranks during a graduation ceremony Thursday afternoon at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center.

Friends, family and soon-to-be co-workers watched as Travis Akers, Mayra Ayala, Fred Baskett, Dustin Bransom, Jeremiah Munden, Heather Rosa Velasquez and James Vekasy were sworn in and issued badges.

“We did it,” said Ayala, who was selected as the class “president” by her peers. “We did it as a team.”

Ayala and the six officers in her police academy class represent the department’s 19th graduating class.

It is also the department’s 11th consecutive class to achieve a 100-percent pass rate on the state police licensing exam.

After the seven took their oaths, friends and family were invited to pin the badges onto the new officers for the first time.

“(The badge) is a symbol of trust,” said Dennis Baldwin, chief of the Killeen Police Department.

And that trust goes both ways, he said.

“Collectively and individually, it’s their responsibility to maintain that trust with the community, and I think they will,” he said.

The seven graduates were hired as probationary police officers in June, and came from an initial pool of more than 300 applicants.

The police academy training lasted 992 hours.

KPD Lt. Alex Gearhart, a police academy coordinator, said the new officers will now begin their field training.

“They are in no way done,” Gearhart said. “They may not know it, but the easy part is over.”

As the seven new officers prepare for their post-academy careers, the department is already looking to hire more police officers.

Earlier this week, the department announced via its Facebook page, that it was seeking applications for probationary police officers.

Gearhart described the application process as thorough and rigorous, and includes oral interviews, detailed background checks and a polygraph exam.

“We are looking for people with integrity, good decision-making skills, motivation and integrity,” he said.

The Killeen Police Department is authorized to have 256 positions.

Contact Chris McGuinness at chrism@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.

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