Mercer County Police Academy graduates 8th class of Police Officers 
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WEST WINDSOR, N.J. - Mercer County dignitaries and law enforcement officials from around the County gathered March 1 to celebrate the graduation of the 8th basic 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 class of 10 cadets as each received graduation certificates to officially make them police officers.

The commencement was held inside Kelsey Theatre at Mercer County Community College and featured the cadets proudly wearing the uniforms of the respective law enforcement agency each will join.

The graduates endured 22 weeks of training at the academy in all aspects of law enforcement and will now serve in different police departments in Mercer County and elsewhere (see complete list below). The cadets are the eighth police class of the academy, which was created in October 2006 and provides a facility and resources to train law enforcement recruits in Mercer County. The academy is located on the grounds of Mercer County Community College.

Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes saluted the graduates for choosing “a path of public service, a path of serving their communities by protecting them.”

“They will work long hours, overnight shifts, and will probably miss birthdays and holidays,” he said. “Time with their families may be cut short when duty calls. They will face the potential for danger every time they put the uniform on. But the reason they sit on this stage before you is because they have proved themselves worthy of that uniform.”

Other speakers who addressed the class were Academy Director Al Paglione, Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph Bocchini Jr., Mercer County Sheriff Jack Kemler; Lawrence Township Police Chief Daniel Posluszny, president of the Mercer County Chiefs of Police Association; Patricia Donohue, president of Mercer County Community College; Samuel Plumeri Jr., vice chairman of the New Jersey State Parole Board; and Robert Riley, who served as class speaker. Also in attendance were Mercer County Freeholders Ann Cannon, John Cimino and Pasquale “Pat” Colavita.

Bocchini and Kemler both paid tribute to a longtime friend and colleague, Mercer County Undersheriff James Taylor, who died unexpectedly in January. Bocchini told the graduates that while it’s often necessary to be “hard and tough,” those aren’t the only traits that define a good police officer.

“Jimmy Taylor had respect on the street because he was a tough guy but a considerate person,” he said. “He was a good cop and was that same cop for 30-plus years. Gentlemen, I wish you the career of our late friend, Undersheriff Jimmy Taylor, and I wish you well.”

Plumeri, who also is a former Mercer County sheriff and Trenton police officer, struck a similar chord in his keynote address.

“The badge you’re about to wear isn’t just a pin on a uniform,” he said. “It’s a life choice. It’s a decision that defines who you are, your character and your integrity. It defines where you stand between what’s right and what’s wrong, good and bad.

“So go back to your communities and enforce the law, but remember that enforcing the law is only part of the job. The rest of the job is being good to your family, your friends and your neighbors in the community that you serve.”

Several cadets also received awards for their excellence in training. Nicholas Barber was chosen by his classmates for the merit award from the N.J. Police Training Commission as the best all-around graduate, and also received the physical training award. James Rickey Jr. earned the overall academic achievement award; Dominic Belcastro earned the firearms training award; and Andrew DiStefano 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 academy is open to both Mercer County and non-County residents.

The following is a list of the graduates, their hometowns, and the law enforcement agency each will join:
Nicholas B. Barber of Hamilton – West Windsor Police Department
Dominic D. Belcastro of Alpha – Phillipsburg Police Department
Michael S. Connaughton of Phillipsburg – Phillipsburg Police Department
Brian J. DiBiasi of Hamilton – Mercer County Sheriff’s Office
Andrew J. DiStefano of Ewing – Mercer County Sheriff’s Office
Daniel M. Hiestand of Hamilton – Mercer County Sheriff’s Office
Brian K. Martino of Maple Shade – Maple Shade Police Department
Anthony R. Pompei of Hamilton – Mercer County Sheriff’s Office
James E. Rickey Jr. of Hamilton – Mercer County Sheriff’s Office
Robert A. Riley of Hamilton – Mercer County Sheriff’s Office
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