TRENTON, N.J. -The second class of corrections officers trained at the Mercer County Police Academy graduated today in a commencement ceremony before dozens of family members and several County officials.
The class of 10 graduates, all but one of whom will join the Mercer County Department of Corrections, sat at attention inside Kelsey Theatre at Mercer County Community College Friday during commencement as they were addressed by several speakers.
"No one could be prouder of these new officers than their families, and I share in that pride," Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes told the graduates in his remarks.
The graduates (see complete list below) were trained at the Academy in all aspects of corrections enforcement for the last 12 weeks will begin working at the Mercer County Correction Center immediately. The cadets are the second class of corrections officers produced by the Academy, which has so far graduated 50 police officers in its first two police classes.
"These officers have sacrificed and will continue to sacrifice-they will miss birthdays and holidays because what we do is non-stop," said Mercer County Corrections Center Warden Charles Ellis. "They have started a journey, a pledge to protect the community. I welcome these new officers."
The Academy was created by Hughes, Mercer County Sheriff Kevin Larkin, and other County law enforcement officials in October 2006 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.
Larkin, highlighting the physically and academically grueling Academy training, said the goal of their training was to ensure their safety while on the job.
"I thank the Academy for its professionalism, because the most important thing you learned is to come home safe after every shift," Larkin told the class.
Mercer County Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor Kimberly Lacken opened the hour-long ceremony with remarks in which she extolled the virtues of law enforcement, and wished the 10 new officers long and successful careers.
Other officials who addressed the class and dozens of the officers' family and friends were Academy Director Al Paglione, Mark McCormick, dean of the Mercer County Community College Business and Technology Division, and Hightstown Borough Police Chief James Eufemia, who represented the Mercer Chiefs of Police Association.
Over the 12-week course, the cadets trained in disciplines such as corrections protocol and guidelines, safety of officers and inmates, use of force, firearms, transporting prisoners, and self-defense, among others. The academic and physical training regimen transformed the 10 cadets from normal citizens to first-class corrections officers, Paglione said.
"I'm sure some would say the intensity of this Academy is not necessary or even that it is excessive," Paglione said. "But I can assure you, each of these recruits is now equipped to deal with the variety of scenarios that can occur at a correctional institution."
James Chambers, of Trenton, N.J., who is the oldest of the graduates at age 41, was chosen by his fellow graduates as class speaker.
"You need only to pick up a local paper to realize the type of clientele we will deal with in Corrections," Chambers said. "This Academy gave us serious training because we are in a serious business."
Two cadets received awards for their performance in training. Officer Anthony Herbert of Hamilton was presented with both the academic achievement award and the firing range accuracy award, while Officer Maurice Jackson of Trenton earned the physical fitness award.
In addition to Paglione, the Mercer Police Academy staff consists of: Sergeant Stephen Demko, training supervisor; Investigator Robert Smith, chief instructor; Investigator Robert Gioscio, staff instructor; Detective Dennis Schuster (Ret.), range master/Sheriff's liaison; Stephen A. Notta, Prosecutor's liaison; and Renee Mastroianni, staff secretary. Adjunct staff for the corrections training included: Sergeant Shawn Palmer, correctional staff supervisor; Corrections Officer Russell Morgan, staff instructor; and Corrections Officer Juan DelCastillo, staff instructor.
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, which was 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. Training for County park rangers is also offered at the academy.
The third police officer 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.
The following is a list of the Corrections graduates, their hometowns, and the law enforcement agency each will join:
Roshaine S. Brown (Trenton, N.J.) Mercer County Dept. of Corrections
James T. Chambers (Trenton, N.J.) Mercer County Dept. of Corrections
James P. DePalma (Hamilton, N.J.) Mercer County Dept. of Corrections
Jabari H. Dingle (Trenton, N.J.) Mercer County Dept. of Corrections
Robin D. Hallett (Trenton, N.J.) Mercer County Dept. of Corrections
Anthony T. Herbert (Hamilton, N.J.) Mercer County Dept. of Corrections
Maurice T. Jackson (Trenton, N.J.) Mercer County Dept. of Corrections
Jeffrey A. Lane (Hopewell, N.J.) Mercer County Dept. of Corrections
Daniell M. Parks (Trenton, N.J.) Mercer County Dept. of Corrections
Gretchen L. Malone (Milford, N.J.) Hunterdon County Dept. of Corrections