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Boston Police recruits join commissioner on run

Recruits run from academy in Hyde Park to police headquarters in Roxbury

More than 11 years ago, Franklin Ortiz found himself at a turning point.

His best friend, 19-year-old Quirico Romero Jr., had been fatally shot outside a baby shower in Roslindale, where a man opened fire on a crowd on March 23, 2003. In the killing’s aftermath, Ortiz said, he met two Boston police homicide detectives who stuck by him: Sergeant Detective Thomas O’Leary and Sergeant Detectives Paul McLaughlin.

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On Wednesday, the 30-year-old Jamaica Plain resident is set to follow in the footsteps of the men who inspired him at a dark moment and be sworn in as a Boston police officer.

“I was 19 years old at the time and it was really traumatic for me,” Ortiz said Monday in an interview. “Here I am today, and I’m a little closer to my dream.”

Ortiz spoke after he and 66 of his fellow police recruits ran about 9 miles from the Boston Police Academy in Hyde Park to police headquarters in Roxbury, where they participated in a wreath-laying ceremony honoring fallen officers.

They were joined on the run, which is a tradition for recruits completing their training, by Police Commissioner William B. Evans, an avid runner and marathoner.

The event culminated with each recruit touching the Boston police badge featured on the Boston Police Memorial next to headquarters.

The recruits are set to be sworn in during a ceremony Wednesday at Roxbury Community College. The 56 members of the class who are joining the Boston Police Department will work in parts of the city that have traditionally faced spikes in violence during the summer, Evans said. The other 11 members are slated to join police departments in Milton, Everett, Dedham, and Natick.

“These officers are going to be going to Roxbury, Mattapan, and Dorchester, which will help us in our effort to curb any violence that might happen this summer,” Evans said. “This makes me very excited to have these additional officers going to those neighborhoods where traditionally we’ve had the most violence.”

The new officers will be paired with more experienced counterparts while they learn the job, Evans said.

“They’ll learn the job here more than other districts,” he said. “We have some quieter districts like West Roxbury, South Boston, where they don’t learn the job as well.”

Ortiz said that after Romero died, he studied criminal justice, earned an associate’s degree, and worked as a corrections officer for the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department.

O’Leary credited Ortiz with identifying the shooter and providing testimony that sealed a guilty verdict. He also said Ortiz was the only witness among dozens at the scene who came forward to help the investigation after Romero was shot, O’Leary said Tuesday in an e-mail to the Globe.

In 2007, David N. Diaz was sentenced to life in prison without parole for Romero’s death. At the time, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley called Romero “a completely innocent victim.”

Ortiz said O’Leary, the homicide detective, inspired him to become a police officer.

“To this day, we’re friends,” he said. “Sergeant O’Leary stuck by me the whole time. I maintained contact with him. And through school and through my time that I was at the sheriff’s department.”

O’Leary said Ortiz is like a son to him.

“I cannot say enough about how proud I am for Franklin and his family and I know he will be a Cop’s Cop for he possesses the ... quantity of quality traits that have allowed him to persevere in coping with life,” O’Leary said.

Sean Wallace said he is completing his police training a week shy of his 43d birthday. The South Boston resident said he gave up a 20-year career with Fidelity Investments to join the Police Department.

“I always regretted not becoming a police officer or firefighter,” said Wallace, whose late father, John, was a captain with the Boston Fire Department.

“As time went on, I really wanted to have a purpose in life,” said Wallace, who most recently worked as a branch service manager at a Fidelity Investor Center in the Financial District.

“As a police officer, every day you work, you have a purpose,” he said. “You’re there to help people, help the city. I just couldn’t have that doing what I was doing.”

The president of the latest class, known as 53-13, is 25-year-old Meghan Walsh, who lives in Dorchester.

Walsh said she grew up hearing stories about her great-grandfather, who was a Boston police officer. Her father worked for the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department, and she interned with the Boston Police Department’s media relations unit, Walsh said.

“I think being able to actually be a police officer in this city is extremely important to me to give back to the community that I think has given me so much and made me the person that I am today,” she said.

Walsh said she is looking forward to getting her first assignment.

“I think going to the busier districts is going to be really beneficial to myself and my classmates, because we’re going to learn,” she said.

“We’re going to see things. We’re going to be busy. I think the best way to do it is just go in and hit the ground running.”

Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.
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