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The Billings Police Department welcomed three new officers to its ranks on Monday.

Seats at Municipal Court were filled with family, friends and future colleagues who looked on as officers Todd Morgan, 42, of Billings; Benjamin Beck, 22, of Bozeman; and Clint Anglin, 32, of Billings were sworn in by Judge Mary J. Knisley.

The ceremony was special for Knisely, who was elected a state district judge in November.

"This is my last time probably getting a chance to do this," Knisely said to the three officers, adding that "the system, the whole foundation of the criminal justice system is watching what you do."

Cameras from all corners of the room flashed as the officers took the oath, signed their certificates and were presented with their badges.

"If you do this job properly, there is nothing more noble you can do with your life," Chief Rich St. John said.

He told the officers that they must have passion for the job and passions outside the job and that they must work hard and play just as hard.

"If I find out you are at home listening to the scanner waiting for the big one on your day off, then I am going to be disappointed," St. John said.

He told them that they also had to be good to their families — their main source of support.

"Guard your integrity as though it is your most important possession because deep down, it is," St. John said.

After getting their uniforms, filling out paperwork and going through a bit of firearms training, the men will set out for training at Montana Law Enforcement Academy in Helena.

They will be gone for 12 weeks.

"We give them a few tools, a road map and an apple, and then they are off for the academy," St. John said in closing of Monday's ceremony.

The department has hired between 50 and 55 officers in the past five years. With the hiring of Morgan, Beck and Anglin, the department now employs 143 sworn officers.

At least on paper, the department is at full staff.

Three officers just graduated from academy training in Helena and still have a few weeks of in-the-field training before they go solo. Add them to the three newest officers headed for the academy, and the department has a few holes on its roster. 

"We are down six from being full-staffed on the street," Sgt. Kevin Iffland said. "We are full-staffed as far as as many people we can hire."

Iffland said the department will probably hire between six and eight more officers throughout 2011 due to attrition.