Contact: Julie Willmot
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TRENTON, N.J. -Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes joined County, state, and local officials today at the graduation ceremony for the second class of cadets to complete the Mercer Police Academy.

The impressive class of 37 cadets sat at attention inside Kelsey Theatre at Mercer County Community College Friday during the commencement proudly wearing the uniforms of the respective law enforcement agency each will join as several speakers addressed them.

"These 37 graduates represent the second class of exceptionally trained law enforcement officers from the Mercer Police Academy," Hughes said. "More importantly, they have forged a tradition of excellence here at this academy that all future classes will be measured against. On behalf of all of Mercer County, I welcome these graduates to our communities."

The graduates who were trained at the Academy in all aspects of law enforcement for the last four months will now serve in a variety of different agencies within Mercer County and elsewhere (see complete list below). The cadets are the second class of the Academy, which was created in January 2007 and provides, for the first time, a facility and resources to train law enforcement recruits within Mercer County. The Academy is located on the grounds of Mercer County Community College.

Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph Bocchini Jr., County Sheriff Kevin Larkin, Mercer County Community College President Dr. Patricia Donohue, and Ewing Township Police Chief Robert Colton, who make up the Academy's Board of Directors along with Hughes, also spoke to the cadets and an audience of hundreds of cadets' family members and friends. County Freeholder Anthony Carabelli represented the freeholder board in the ceremony.

"When you deal with the public, you have an extra obligation to carry yourself in a manner the average citizen doesn't have to," Bocchini told the graduates. "Remember, you represent not just your department, but your community and all of law enforcement."

Larkin, meanwhile, applauded the efforts of the Academy staff, its Board of Directors and the New Jersey Police Training Commission, which first collaborated in 2006 to create Mercer's own academy.

Over the 20-week course, the cadets trained in disciplines such as use of force, firearms, vehicle pursuit, hostage negotiation, advanced crime scene processing, and domestic violence prevention, among others. The grueling regimen transformed the cadets from normal citizens to first-class officers, Paglione said.

"When they came in, they were rough diamonds that we polished into their finest brilliant sheen," Paglione said.

Donohue, meanwhile, praised the educational standards of the academy as well-cadets were challenged intellectually and took extensive tests nearly every week of training. She thanked the families of the graduates, saying they were the backbone of the program.

Michael S. Rapiejko, an Alternate Route graduate from Skillman, N.J. who completed training with a 98 percent average on test scores, was chosen by his fellow graduates as class speaker.

"Although the Mercer Police Academy is only two classes old, it has earned its reputation as on of the most physically demanding academies in the state," he said. "The Academy staff never relented even for a moment, and this class is honored to graduate today."

Several cadets also received awards for their excellence in training. Rapiejko was presented with the academic achievement award; Walter Silcox with the physical fitness award; Fred Brown with the firearms award; Christopher McKenna with the emergency vehicle operations award; and Anthony Conway Jr. with the class-nominated most likely to succeed 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 will save $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.

The Academy will train its first class of recruits as Corrections Officers beginning March 3, 2008, which is also open to Mercer County and non-County residents. The third class of the Academy begins training Sept. 8, 2008 and can accept up to 40 recruits. Competition for slots is growing, especially with individuals who apply using "alternate route" status, in which a recruit pays his or her own way for training.

In the future, training for County park rangers will be offered at the academy, also a first for Mercer.

The following is a list of the graduates, their hometowns, and the law enforcement agency each will join:

Agustin A. Alvarado (Bradley Beach, N.J.)
   Monmouth County Sheriff's Office
Darrel M. Brown (Middlesex, N.J.)
    Alternate Route
Fred Brown (North Brunswick, N.J.)
    Princeton Univ. Public Safety
Thomas L. Burgin (Somerset, N.J.)
   Alternate Route
Christopher M. Clugsten (Hamilton, N.J.)
  Mercer County Sheriff's Office
Anthony J. Conway (Trenton, N.J.)
   Mercer County Sheriff's Office
George C. Davidson Jr. (Neptune, N.J.)
  Monmouth County Sheriff's Office
Gary L. Denamen Jr. (Hackettstown, N.J.)
  N.J. Dept. of Human Services
Mark G. Fennimore (Cream Ridge, N.J.)
  Alternate Route 
Salvatore Figueroa (Hamilton, N.J.)
   Hamilton Twp. Police Dept.
Neil Jantos (East Windsor, N.J.)
   Mercer County Sheriff's Office
Randall T. Karch (East Windsor, N.J.)
   Alternate Route
Darwin W. Kieffer IV (Hamilton, N.J.)
   Alternate Route
James S. Klesney (Delaware Twp., N.J.)
  Hunterdon County Sheriff's Office
Richard J. Laird (Lawrenceville, N.J.)
   Lawrence Twp. Police Dept.
Alex R. Lopez (Paterson, N.J.)
    N.J. Dept. of Human Services
Ralph H. MacKelvey Jr. (Hamilton, N.J.)
  Mercer County Sheriff's Office
Christopher J. McKenna (Hamilton, N.J.)
  Mercer County Sheriff's Office
Kyle M. Michalak (Ewing, N.J.)
   Alternate Route
John Murkli Jr. (Lawrenceville, N.J.)
   Mercer County Sheriff's Office
Roberto Negron Jr. (Ewing, N.J.)
   N.J. Dept. of Human Services
Russell T. Newborn (Hamilton, N.J.)
   Hamilton Twp. Police Dept.
Jean P. Ortega (Hamilton, N.J.)
   Hamilton Twp. Police Dept.
George M. Peterson Jr. (Lawrenceville, N.J.)
  Mercer County Sheriff's Office
Frank A. Pinelli (Hopewell, N.J.)
   Alternate Route
Christopher B. Pullen (Hamilton, N.J.)
   Hamilton Twp. Police Dept.
Michael S. Rapieljko (Skillman, N.J.)
   Alternate Route
Peter J. Romanski (Matawan, N.J.)
   Monmouth County Sheriff's Office
Frank T. Sabatino (Hamilton, N.J.)
   West Windsor Twp. Police Dept.
Lucas R. Schwab (Lambertville, N.J.)
   Hunterdon County Sheriff's Office
Aaron J. Scolnick (Hamilton, N.J.)
   Mercer County Sheriff's Office
Walter V. Silcox (Hamilton, N.J.)
   Alternate Route
David A. Smithson (West Trenton, N.J.)
  Mercer County Sheriff's Office
Richard L. Soto Jr. (Ewing, N.J.)
   Mercer County Sheriff's Office
Thomas J. Sweeney (Hightstown, N.J.)
   Mercer County Sheriff's Office
Peter Swiston (Lebanon, N.J.)
    Hunterdon County Sheriff's Office
Volodymyr Tereschuk (Trenton, N.J.)
   Princeton Univ. Public Safety