SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ — Working for the John H. Stamler Police Academy has always been more than a job for Detective Ed Hanewald, and after 19 years, he will now be hanging up his drill sergeant hat.
Hanewald, better known as “senior drill” to his recruits, has been the lead training instructor for almost two decades and has trained almost every one of the 1,600 officers currently on active duty throughout the county.
In his work at the academy in Scotch Plains, he conducted daily physical training sessions, taught military drills and provided recruits with physical assessments.
When Hanewald watched his 38th — and final — class graduate June 11, he was presented with a plaque and met with a standing ovation as he ascended the stage.
“It’s comforting to know that there are thousands of officers that I helped train and was able to put out there,” Hanewald told LocalSource in a June 19 interview.
“It was an absolute privilege and honor to serve as lead training instructor and I’ve thought that every day for the past 19 years.”
Hanewald prides himself on being a respectful and trustworthy instructor, just two reasons why he thinks he is beloved by his charges.
“I’m always pushing my recruits to get the most out of the program that they possibly can and I try to have them work hard out of respect as opposed to fear,” he said.
“I tell every recruit class that fear is temporary, and that I could get them to do anything because they’re afraid of the repercussions if you don’t, but I want them to be able to do the right thing out of respect,” Hanewald said.
He also said it’s important to support the recruits both during training sessions and after class is finished.
“You’re not just an instructor here, you’re a counselor and a mentor too,” Hanewald said. “Recruits grow a trust in you and when they bring you issues. It’s important to take it seriously and try to help.”
Police work and training methods have regularly changed — particularly due to advances in technology — during the past 19 years, Hanewald said. A recent example he cited is that all county officers are now equipped with body-worn cameras.
The Union County Prosecutor’s Office announced last year that the county will be the first in the state to have body-worn cameras for officers in all 21 municipalities.
“Now, officers always need to be aware that they’re on camera and being recorded which is something they didn’t have to deal with a few years ago,” Hanewald said.
He added that when he first started as an instructor, recruits would do simpler exercises such as push-ups and running but now, many police academies have added cross-fit training to their programs.
“The training methods have changed, so we have changed,” Hanewald said. “It’s no longer just military-style training.”
Hanewald started working for the Union County Sheriff’s Office in 1994 before he was transferred to the academy in 2006.
Hanewald told LocalSource that law enforcement and physical training are the “two things in life that he loves the most.” A college baseball athlete at William Paterson University, he said he thinks playing on the Union County Sheriff’s Office softball team helped him “get his foot in the door” at the academy.
“When there was an instructor position available at the academy, they already knew that I was an athlete because I was on the softball team, so the position was presented to me,” he said.
Hanewald, who has already started his own personal training business on the side, plans to shift into personal training full time after he officially retires June 28.
Sgt. Erik Finne, has served at the program’s range master for the past two years, will assume Hanewald’s position after he leaves. Hanewald has worked with Finne and four of his recruitment classes thus far and he has high hopes for Finne’s success.
“There is no doubt that he will do a great job and he’s certainly ready for the position,” Hanewald said.