WEST WINDSOR, N.J. - Mercer County dignitaries and law enforcement officials from around the County gathered today to celebrate the graduation of the third class of police officers from the Mercer Police Academy.
An audience of more than 100 family members, friends, and members of a number of law enforcement agencies witnessed the impressive class of 26 cadets as each received graduation certificates to officially make them police officers.
"I congratulate these 26 graduates for their commitment during their rigorous training and thank them for their decision to enter public service as police officers," Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes said in a statement. "These young men and women represent the finest our communities have to offer, and I wish them well as they embark on their careers."
The commencement was held inside Kelsey Theatre at Mercer County Community College Wednesday and featured the cadets proudly wearing the uniforms of the respective law enforcement agency each will join.
The graduates endured 21 weeks of training at the Academy in all aspects of law enforcement and will now serve in many different police departments within Mercer County and elsewhere (see complete list below). The cadets are the third police class of the Academy, which was created in January 2007 and provides a facility and resources to train law enforcement recruits within Mercer County. The Academy is located on the grounds of Mercer County Community College.
Among the speakers who addressed the class were Academy Director Al Paglione, Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph Bocchini Jr., Mercer County Sheriff Kevin Larkin, Mercer County Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor Doris M. Galuchie, and Lawrence Township Police Chief Dan Posluszny. County Freeholder John Cimino represented the freeholder board at the ceremony and Dr. Donald Generals, Vice President of Community Affairs for MCCC, represented the college.
"The class you see before you has persevered through 21 weeks of demanding physical and education training that have earned them the right to wear a police uniform," Paglione said. "And theirs is a noble profession. Where else in our society does one have the opportunity to bring a life into the world, to save a life, and, if necessary, to sacrifice their own life?"
Bocchini told the class it had outperformed the two previous classes and that it had set the standard for future classes. "You've got the world in your hands-make something out of it," he told the class.
Over the past four months, the class trained in disciplines such as use of force, firearms, vehicle pursuit, hostage negotiation, advanced crime scene processing, and domestic violence prevention, among others.
Patrick D. Quick, a graduate from Hamilton Township who is joining the Hamilton Police Department, was chosen by his fellow graduates as class speaker. He told his class members they represented the best of the best, as the class originally started with 38 recruits.
"Today is a long awaited day for us," he said. “I have no doubt the training and knowledge the staff of this Academy has given us will allow us to be smart, safe, and resourceful officers."
Several cadets also received awards for their excellence in training. Quick was also chosen by his classmates for the merit award from the N.J. Police Training Commission as the best all-around graduate. James M. Nizolek of Ewing earned the academic achievement award; Nicholas M. Larocca of Hamilton earned the physical training award; Michael C. Dons of Edgewater Park, N.J. and James Nizolek tied with perfect scores for the firearms training award; and Robert J. Conover of Hamilton earned the emergency vehicle operations award.
The Mercer Police Academy consists of two classrooms specially designed for the needs of law enforcement training and recruits use MCCC grounds, its library, and its gymnasium for training purposes. The campus includes a padded training room that is used for "defensive tactics" classes. A shooting range in Hopewell Township operated by the prosecutor’s office is part of the academy as well.
The creation of the academy saves taxpayer dollars by maintaining standardized training without relying on outside agencies. Training recruits within the County eliminates the cost of fees and transportation of recruits to other police academies. The sheriff's office alone saves $34,800 annually, the cost of training 12 new recruits a year at the Burlington County Police Academy.
In addition, training for homeland security and counter-terrorism is now standardized among Mercer law enforcement, and the academy can host regional training on gangs, Breathalyzer testing, school resource officer training, fugitive apprehension, and K9 units-all subjects that had to be taught outside the County in the past.
Along with the County's law enforcement agencies, the Mercer Office of Emergency Management, the N.J. State Police, the FBI, and the state Division of Criminal Justice are expected to utilize Mercer's academy for training purposes. In the future, training for County park rangers will be offered at the academy, also a first for Mercer.
The Academy is open to both Mercer County and non-County residents, and many recruits utilize "alternate route" status, in which the recruit pays his or her own way for training.
The following is a list of the graduates, their hometowns (all from New Jersey), and the law enforcement agency each will join:
Brian T. Adams (E. Brunswick) Alternate Route
Steven D. Caruso (Hamilton) Mercer County Sheriff's Office
Ryan T. Cavanaugh (Lawrence) Alternate Route
Robert J. Conover (Hamilton) Mercer County Sheriff's Office
Eric J. DeBoskey (Ewing) Ewing Twp. Police Department
Michael C. Dons (Edgewater Park) Alternate Route
Frank D. Girard III (Lawrence) Alternate Route
Michael J. Greco (S. Brunswick) Alternate Route
Ricardo Hernandez (Hamilton) Mercer County Sheriff's Office
Nicholas M. LaRocca (Hamilton) West Windsor Twp. Police Dept.
Anthony B. Latorres (Riverside) Alternate Route
Louis A. LoBue (Hamilton) Hamilton Twp. Police Department
Matthew J. Mayhew (Hamilton) Hamilton Twp. Police Department
Timothy R. McMahon Jr. (Hamilton) Alternate Route
Marc A. Mecca (Phillipsburg) Warren County Sheriff's Office
Joseph E. Mendez (Hamilton) Mercer County Sheriff's Office
James M. Nizolek (Ewing) Mercer County Sheriff's Office
Frank J. Palmieri (Hamilton) Hamilton Twp. Police Department
Patrick D. Quick (Hamilton) Hamilton Twp. Police Department
James V. Sapia (Hamilton) Alternate Route
Nicholas A. Schulte (Hamilton) Hamilton Twp. Police Department
Robert J. Septak (Hamilton) Mercer County Sheriff's Office
Joseph D. Tobolski (Hamilton) Hamilton Twp. Police Department
Richard J. Tramontana (Ewing) Ewing Twp. Police Department
Julia E. Verwers (Emerson) Alternate Route
Amanda R. Vogt (Mount Ephraim) Lindenwold Police Department