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He survived war-torn Iraq. Now, he will be protecting Richmond streets as a cop.

Posted at 5:39 PM, Dec 01, 2022

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond's Police Department added 12 new officers to its ranks Thursday as the department's 125th Basic Recruit Class earned their badge after almost a year of training.

The young class, with no officer over the age of 30, is diverse with new officers coming from near and far. For Mohammed Hameed, earning his badge in front of his family is a moment he will never forget.

"It's an indescribable moment. I've never felt so proud," Officer Hameed said.

Hameed grew up in Iraq and lived in three different countries before coming to the United States in 2015.

"The moment I moved into this city, it just felt different. It just felt like home, even though it wasn't home, but it felt like home," Hameed said.

His childhood memories in war zones, without protection, prompted him to serve.

"We had, in 2004, 2005, a bomb threat in my school. It wasn't taken as seriously. The military didn't go in because, frequently, those calls would happen. They didn't go in, and the bomb ended up going off, and over 50 kids at the age of eight, seven, died," Hameed said. "The active shooter training that we received, I took it very seriously."

"There's so many situations, when I was a kid, I wished there was a police officer that could help me out, so I wanted to be that person. To be there for people, the impact that, we're here to save, not harm anybody," he said.

For 23-year-old Whitney Cromer, the president of the recruitment class, being a police officer is personal.

"I've always wanted to protect people, and get violence off the streets, drugs, guns, because I saw so much back home in West Virginia, how drugs can affect people," Cromer said. "I believe that one police officer at a time, we can make a big impact."

Interim Police Chief Rick Edwards called the group an "impressive class," nodding to their desire to serve.

"I think with this group, this generation of folks, they want to serve. They want to find ways to be helpful to the community and to just be community partners. It's a completely different model that attracts them to this profession than maybe, say, generations, 20 years or so ago," Edwards said.

Officer Arnold Roots II, from Henrico County, said after the protests of 2020, he wanted to change the public's perception of law enforcement, specifically focusing on how police interact with Richmond's youth.

"We're not just here to kind of look the part, we want to do what we say we want to do, and that's to protect and serve the community," he said.

As of right now, there are 148 current officer vacancies in the department. There are an allotted 755 sworn positions. Of those, 607 are currently active.

At Thursday's graduation ceremony, Richmond's Chief Administrative Officer Lincoln Saunders said the city is taking the steps to improve working conditions for officers to recruit and retain talent.

Later in the ceremony, Edwards listed out five core values he wants the department to embrace.

Those include attention to the mental, emotional and physical wellness of officers; rebuilding trust and legitimacy; community engagement; innovation and technology; and policing through strategic planning and evidence-based research.

"We have to break down the stigma of the stoic cop," Edwards said. "We have to just break that down and let people know that it's okay to ask for help."

Officer Hameed said he's confident in the class's training and agrees with Edward's push to present police in a different light.

"Behind that badge, that's the same heart. The same blood. It's just a human," he said.

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