UNION COUNTY, NJ — On July 21, 39 graduates of the John H. Stamler Police Academy took their oaths of honor in a ceremony celebrating the academy’s 122nd graduating class.
“Not only did the 122nd graduating class persevere through a global pandemic to complete their training, but they now enter the law enforcement profession at a time when law enforcement is under immense scrutiny. We are so incredibly proud of this new class of officers, who take to heart the knowledge that in every action they take and every reaction they have, they have the power to define what it means to be a police officer,” acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay Ruotolo said.
As the first recruit class to graduate during a global pandemic, the 122nd class experienced an unprecedented 23 weeks at the academy. While classes began normally in January, as COVID-19’s threat to public health grew unavoidable, recruits began meeting virtually in March to continue their physical and academic training. The class returned to in-person instruction in June with measures in place to protect the health and safety of recruits and academy staff.
“The 122nd graduating class faced more challenges than other recruit classes that have successfully completed the academy,” academy Director Eric Mason said. “We are proud of all our graduates and wish them the best as they pursue their law enforcement careers.”
The graduating class includes newly appointed officers from the Jersey City Police Department, Plainfield Police Division, Rahway Police Department, Roselle Police Department, Roselle Park Police Department, Union Township Police Department, Union County Police Department, Union County Sheriff’s Office and Weehawken Police Department.
During the ceremony, several meritorious awards were presented to graduating recruits for exemplary performance in training. The John H. Stamler Police Academy Merit Award and the Officer Anthony J. Lordi Jr. Fallen Officers Memorial Award were presented to Officer Matthew F. Melody, Union Township Police Department; the Union County Police Chiefs Academic Achievement Award was presented to Michael J. Gabriel, an alternate route graduate; the Charles Jotz Best Marksman Award was presented to Officer Danny Mirao, Union Township Police Department; the Emergency Vehicle Operations and Control Award was presented to Officer John P. Dougherty, Springfield Police Department; the Most Dedicated in Physical Fitness award was presented to Officer Eric J. Borrero, Roselle Police Department; the Best All Around in Physical Fitness Award and the Physical Fitness Challenge Award were presented to Officer Christian Brown, Plainfield Police Division; and the 200 Club of Union County Award was presented to Officer Michael Plaia, Union Township Police Department.
“I am incredibly proud of the graduating class and their ability to adapt and overcome the challenge of attending the academy during a pandemic,” said Jonathan Parham, director of countywide police policy, planning and training for the Union County Prosecutor’s Office.
While recruits usually graduate from the academy in a large, formal ceremony, this year’s abridged and more informal commencement took place outside the Stamler Police Academy in Scotch Plains to ensure graduates and their limited number of guests had space to observe proper social-distancing guidelines. In place of a keynote speaker, recruits were addressed by Mason, Ruotolo, and Union County Police Department Chief Chris Debbie, who is also president of the Union County Police Chiefs Association. Recruits and their families were joined by Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders Chairperson Alexander Mirabella and Vice Chairperson Angel G. Estrada, Sheriff Peter Corvelli, First Assistant Prosecutor Doreen Yanik, UCPO Chief of Detectives Patricia Gusmano, and chiefs and directors from across the county.
The John H. Stamler Police Academy has been in continuous operation since 1946. The academy partners with the Union County Police Chiefs Association, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office and local agencies to provide instructors, resources and support for each graduating class.
Photos Courtesy of Mark Spivey