The Apopka Police Department just became two officers stronger after swearing-in Irvin Jerez and Kenneth Lucas during a ceremony at City Hall on Friday.
Jerez and Lucas are the third and fourth officers to be hired through a $625,000 federal Community Oriented Police Services (COPS) Hiring Program grant. The APD is budgeted for a total of five officers through the grant.
APD Chief Michael McKinley was pleased to use the grant again, and optimistic for the success of the two new officers of the APD.
"We're excited to hire two more officers from the COPS grant," he said. "We think they will do a great job serving this community. They were the cream of the crop of the applications we received."
McKinley also expects to hire an additional three officers in June, one of which will complete the grant allotment.
Before swearing-in the two new officers, Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer addressed the family, friends and police officers that attended the ceremony.
"The Apopka Police Department is one of the finest, most professional, well-trained agencies in all of Central Florida. They are knowledgeable of our community, which allows them to be effective for our residents. The citizens of Apopka love our public safety professionals."
Officer Jerez, 23, graduated from University High School (in Orlando) in 2011. He was born in Long Island, NY and was in the Marines for over five years before joining the APD. Jerez remains in the Marine Reserves.
He likes the hands-on approach to law enforcement.
"Law enforcement was always something I wanted to do because you can see the difference you make," he said. "You see how your service in the community can enhance a person's life."
Officer Kenneth Lucas, 26, is a 2008 graduate of Lake Brantley High School (in Altamonte Springs) and a former auto mechanic at his father's garage. However, he too wanted to be a police officer his entire life.
"I worked for my dad as a mechanic, but this was a lifelong dream," he said. "Community-based policing is a chance to do some good and help people out that you come in contact with."
Both Jerez and Lucas brought a large group of family to their swearing-in event, and McKinley spoke directly to them about what it means to have a relative on the APD.
"We are a family," he said. "And now you are a part of that family. There are going to be some rough times, but we will always be there to support you."