RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Friday evening was a day of celebration on the campus of Meredith College.

The auditorium filled with family, friends, Raleigh police officers and the 125th graduating class of the department.

“This is a huge day.  I can remember when I graduated from the academy. This is awesome because they have been working for the last six months,” said Raleigh Police Chief Estella Patterson.

In total, there were 22 new officers sworn in.

(Nick Sturdivant / CBS 17)

“When I had my conversation with them and I also read their ‘why’ statements, why they want to be a Raleigh police officer just about all of them said they want to make a difference in their community,” Patterson mentioned.

While the new officers are eager to get to work, Patterson said the department is eager to fill vacancies.

“The applicant pool is getting smaller,” she stated.

As of Friday, Raleigh police told CBS 17 there are a little over 100 vacancies.  They are down from the 123 vacancies in August.

“We are doing a lot of things to recruit. We are providing incentives for people who want to be a Raleigh police officer. We are also [doing] word of mouth. Talking to laterals, people from other agencies,” explained Patterson.

During Friday’s ceremony, a graduating officer took the time to honor Wake County Deputy Ned Byrd who was shot and killed in August.

“He was 48 years old and a 13-year veteran of the Wake County Sheriff’s Office and by all accounts an amazing person,” he said.

He also honored Raleigh Police Officer Gabriel Torres. Torres was one of the five people shot and killed during the Oct. 13 mass shooting.

“I know he’s moved on. I know he’s moved on to protecting the streets of heaven,” the officer said as he fought back tears.

Patterson also assured family and friends of the graduates they are good hands.

“I know that you may have concerns. Maybe even apprehensions of your loved ones being in this profession, but please rest assure knowing that we have made solid investments in your loved ones,” Patterson said during her speech.