A new round of recruits graduated from the police academy on Thursday. Over 1,500 graduates attended the ceremony at Madison Square Garden, the largest class since 2005.

Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly presided over the graduating class and offered awards of merit to several police officers. Bloomberg presented the Mayor's Award to Officer Eric W. Levy, for earning the highest overall average in the class. Police Officer Robert J. Miller received the Police Commissioner's Award for earning the second highest average and Officer Alexander A. Bustamante received the First Deputy Commissioner's Award for the highest academic average.  

It's been another unforgettable year for the NYPD: two terrorist plots foiled, a smooth handling of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 amid significant security threats, and a massive mobilization to help evacuate citizens during Hurricane Irene, said Mayor Bloomberg. Despite all those challenges, the department still succeeded in keeping New York City the safest big city in the country. Today's graduates will build on that success.

Graduates are excited to begin their tenure on the streets as they become part of the nation's largest police force.

I have a sense of accomplishment, said Officer Alex Giamboi. We're probably going to have to learn a lot more. Real life is a lot different than a textbook.

Officer Wayne Springman expressed similar sentiments about completing his academy training.

I was really excited, he said. It was fulfilling and it was pretty a cool feeling.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said he was proud to see a new group of police officers enter into the ranks of the department.

In their enthusiasm for this city and this country, these new officers have chosen to contribute to civic life. They are joining an outstanding team.