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Mercer County dignitaries and law enforcement officials from around the County gathered July 31, 2015 to celebrate the graduation of the 13th basic class of police officers from the Mercer County Police Academy.

Held inside Kelsey Theatre at Mercer County Community College (MCCC), the class of 32 cadets received graduation certificates officially making them police officers witnessed by an audience of more than 350 family members, friends, and members of a number of law enforcement agencies. Many cadets wore the uniforms of the respective law enforcement agency each will join and 11 cadets were “alternate route” trainees, who attended the academy at their own expense and now can pursue employment as certified police officers.

The graduates endured twenty-one 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 graduating cadets are the 13th police class of the Academy created in October 2006. The academy is located on the grounds of MCCC and provides a facility and resources to train law enforcement recruits in Mercer County.

Academy Director Al Paglione offered his congratulations to the graduates, many of whom reside outside the Mercer County area, and spoke about the academy’s role in preparing the class for the diverse profession of law enforcement.

“There are many hats worn by today’s law enforcement officer,” Paglione said. “On any given day, you’re called upon to be a counselor, a psychologist, a guardian, an enforcer, a protector, a friend, or a paramedic, just to name a few. It’s what’s expected of every officer during any call for service or assistance.”

Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes told the graduates that he is proud of the 9-year-old Police Academy “for instilling in class after class the professionalism that we see in our police departments,” and noted that they are entering a profession that is undergoing change.

“The scrutiny on policing is changing with car cams and body cams and people taking pictures and movies with cell phones,” Hughes said. “There is an additional scrutiny that you are going to see that officers in the past never saw. That means being required to reach any even higher standard that the public will be able to view and that will be part of your permanent record. I know that the Academy has prepared you for this changing environment and to reach that standard. On behalf of all of Mercer County, I congratulate you and wish you all well.”

Karl Johnston III, a Hamilton resident who is an alternate route trainee, was chosen by his fellow graduates as class speaker. He said that when Class 13-15 began its journey back on March 9 and “July 31 seemed unreachable,” but each trainee learned to take it one day at a time and “be the best version of yourself each day.”

“When you’re in Police Academy mode, there isn’t much time to reflect on what you have accomplished,” Johnston said. “But now that we are here, now that we have made it, each one of us has a sense of pride in the effort we put forth to make it up on this stage.”

Also addressing the class were Acting Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri, Mercer County Sheriff Jack Kemler, West Windsor Police Chief Joseph Pica Jr., President of the Mercer County Chiefs of Police Association; and MCCC President Jianping Wang. Also in attendance were Freeholders Ann Cannon, John Cimino and Pasquale “Pat” Colavita.

During training, the class studied disciplines such as use of force, firearms, vehicle pursuit, hostage negotiation, advanced crime scene processing, and domestic violence prevention, among others. Several cadets received awards at the graduation ceremony for their excellence in training. Jeremy Weniger, who is joining the Branchburg Police Department, was chosen by his classmates to receive the Certificate of Merit awarded by the N.J. Police Training Commission to the best all-around graduate. Adam Swiatek, Raritan Township Police Department, received the Academic Award; Jeffrey Cooper, Alternate Route, and Konstantinos Travlos, North Brunswick Police Department, shared the Firearms Qualification Award; Joseph Sebasto, N.J. State Park Police, Joseph Wagner, Cinnaminson Police Department, and Jeremy Weniger shared the Physical Training Award; and Joseph Sebasto received 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:

Kenneth M. Allen of Burlington Township, Alternate Route; William F. Atkinson of Mount Laurel, Plainsboro Police Department; James H. Bruins of Hamilton, Alternate Route; Kyle L. Buck of Montgomery, Alternate Route; Jeffery H. Cooper of Hamilton, Alternate Route; Phillip L. Culotta of Ewing, Alternate Route; Jacob B. Edelman of Old Bridge, South River Police Department; Nicholas J. Enea of East Windsor, Alternate Route; Daniel J. Farnkopf of Lacey, N.J. State Park Police; Steven W. Fielding of Phillipsburg, Phillipsburg Police Department; Corey J. Fischer of Clinton, Hunterdon County Sheriff’s Office; James D. Gorski Jr. of Lawrenceville, Lawrence Township Police Department; Travis E. Hoffman of Chesterfield, Fieldsboro Police Department; Jorge L. Irizarry of Perth Amboy, Perth Amboy Police Department; Robert T. Janoski of Lawrenceville, Lawrence Township Police Department; Shari A. Johnson of Hamilton, Mercer County Sheriff’s Office; Karl L. Johnston III of Hamilton, Alternate Route; Justin R. Kowalczyk of Hamilton, Plainsboro Township Police Department; Joshua T. Lillagore of Cinnaminson, Cinnaminson Police Department; Michael R. Madden of Levittown, Pa., N.J. State Park Police; Ivis F. Molina of East Windsor, Alternate Route; Christopher J. Petrella of Lopatcong, Lopatcong Township Police Department; James J. Pica of Robbinsville, Mercer County Sheriff’s Office; Joseph N. Sebasto of Hamilton, N.J. State Park Police; Adam K. Swiatek of Delaware Township, Alternate Route; Peter J. Szukics of Toms River, South River Police Department; Daniel R. Titen of Plainsboro, Alternate Route; Konstantinos Travlos of North Brunswick, North Brunswick Police Department; Joseph R. Wagner of Cinnaminson, Cinnaminson Police Department; Jeremy L. Weniger of Branchburg, Branchburg Police Department; Marvin L. Widemond of Phillipsburg, Phillipsburg Police Department; Brian W. Zimmer of Spotswood, Alternate Route.

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