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Mercer County dignitaries and law enforcement officials from around the County gathered Oct. 7, 2016, to celebrate the graduation of the 15th basic class of police officers from the Mercer Police Academy.

An audience of several hundred family members, friends, and members of a number of law enforcement agencies saw the class of 44 cadets receive graduation certificates to officially make them police officers.

The commencement was held inside the gymnasium at Mercer County Community College (MCCC). Many cadets wore the uniforms of the respective law enforcement agency each will join; one cadet was an Alternate Route trainee who attended the academy at his own expense and now can pursue employment as a certified police officer.

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 15th 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 MCCC.

Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes offered his congratulations to the graduates, some of whom reside outside of Mercer County, and expressed his pride in the creation of the Police Academy and the job it does in preparing young men and women for careers in law enforcement.

“It’s a testament to everyone involved,” he said, “the staff, the instructors, but most importantly, the classes themselves and the families that support them.”

Gary Hill Jr., a Hamilton resident who will join the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office, was chosen by his fellow graduates as class speaker. He said the Academy has prepared him and his classmates to handle anything that comes their way.

“We’ll have the knowledge and courage to do everything in our power, even when it looks hopeless, to push on in the face of adversity when times are tough,” he said. “Each and every one of us here today has the strength and courage to look danger in the eye and come out on top.”

Also addressing the class were Agent Stephen A. Notta, Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office; Police Academy Director Martin Masseroni; acting Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri; Mercer County Undersheriff Pedro Medina; West Windsor Police Chief Joseph Pica Jr., president of the Mercer County Chiefs of Police Association; MCCC Vice President Mark Harris; and Samuel J. Plumeri Jr., Vice Chairman, New Jersey State Parole Board. Also in attendance were Freeholders Ann Cannon, John Cimino and Samuel Frisby, and Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson.

During training, the class studied in 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. Nicholas Mahan of Hamilton, who is joining the Trenton 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. John Murphy IV, Mercer County Sheriff’s Office, received the academic award; Erin Douglas, Trenton Police Department, and Ryan Kadezabek, Hunterdon County Sheriff’s Office, shared the firearms qualification award; Michael Stefanelli Jr., Hamilton Township Police Department, and Jose Liriano, Ventnor City Police Department, shared the physical training award; and Gary Hill Jr., Mercer County Sheriff’s Office, 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.

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

Kristen Albertson of Lawrenceville, College of New Jersey Police Department; Michael Applegate of Hamilton, Alternate Route; Erick Avalos of Trenton, Trenton Police Department; Robert Balestrieri of Hamilton, Trenton Police Department; Maureen Bocknack of Kendall Park, Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office; Stephen Campi of Hamilton, Trenton Police Department; Steven Ciosek of Lawrenceville, Princeton University Public Safety; Erin Douglas of Hamilton, Trenton Police Department; Jennifer Eyster-Valyo of Hamilton, Trenton Police Department; Amber-Skye Fontanella of Rahway, Rahway Police Department; Michael Frace of Hampton, Hunterdon County Sheriff’s Office; Scott Frazee of Hamilton, Mercer County Sheriff’s Office; Richard Gonzalez of Hamilton, Trenton Police Department; Gary Hill Jr. of Hamilton, Mercer County Sheriff’s Office; Michael Hirschfeld of Medford, Delanco Township Police Department; Darryl Howard II of Marlton, Beverly City Police Department; Drew Inman of Hamilton, Trenton Police Department; Freddy Jimenez of Hamilton, Trenton Police Department; Ryan Kadezabek of Stockton, Hunterdon County Sheriff’s Office; Mark Kieffer III of Hamilton, Trenton Police Department; Jose Liriano of Ventnor, Ventnor City Police Department; John Ryan Lyle of Lawrence, Mercer County Sheriff’s Office; Nicholas Mahan of Hamilton, Trenton Police Department; Joseph McCarthy of Hamilton, Trenton Police Department; Sean McDonald of Hamilton, Trenton Police Department; John Murphy IV of Hamilton, Trenton Police Department; David Osnato Jr. of Hamilton, Mercer County Sheriff’s Office; Sam Paolicelli of Milford, Hunterdon County Sheriff’s Office; Hiep Pham of Mercerville, Princeton University Public Safety; Melvin Pion of Trenton, Trenton Police Department; Daniel Piotrowski of Hamilton, Trenton Police Department; Nicholas Piotrowski of Hamilton, Trenton Police Department; Robert Plimpton III of Alpha, Hunterdon County Sheriff’s Office; Gilbert Quinones Jr. of Hamilton, College of New Jersey Police Department; Matthew Sickler of Yardville, Mercer County Sheriff’s Office; David Soto II of Trenton, Trenton Police Department; Michael Stefanelli Jr. of Hamilton, Hamilton Township Police Department; Harrison Steimle of Hamilton, Trenton Police Department; Zachary Tevoli of North Brunswick, North Brunswick Township Police Department; Nicholas Tsentas of Flemington, Hunterdon County Sheriff’s Office; Domenic Tuccillo of Hamilton, Trenton Police Department; Kevin Williams Jr. of Hamilton, Trenton Police Department; Matthew Workman of North Brunswick, North Brunswick Township Police Department; and Patrick Zegarski of Hamilton, Mercer County Sheriff’s Office.

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