SOUTH BEND — There was no room to spare in the front of the South Bend Police Department's auditorium Wednesday morning as 16 prospective officers stood shoulder to shoulder and were sworn into the department.

Wednesday's ceremony marked the most recruits ever sworn in at one time, as the department is now fully staffed for the first time since 2019.

"We've not had to do this before. It's a good thing," South Bend Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski joked as the crowd of police officials and family members waited for the recruits to get arranged at the front of the auditorium.

SBPD recruiting:South Bend fast tracks police hiring. Its impact on vetting of officers is up for debate.

With the 16 new additions, there are now 247 sworn officers on the force. The department is budgeted for 240 officers for this year and with retirements, that number will fluctuate. Officials have said the last time the department was at full strength was in the summer of 2019 when there were 243 officers on the force.

Police officials attributed the uptick in recruiting to raises in the previous FOP contract, which went into effect for 2021, as well as to more creative recruiting initiatives such as Prospect Days which allow potential candidates to complete the required slew of exams in one day, instead of over several weeks. The initiatives have born fruit with SBPD hiring 51 new officers in 2022, a massive increase from 18 new hires in 2021.

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