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Morris County Sheriff’s Office Corporals Train Other Departments in Critical Project Lifesaver Skills

Morris County Sheriff’s Office Corporals Erica Valvano and Laura Siemonsma-Bertelli teamed up to train and certify Morris, Essex and Sussex County Sheriff’s Officers and Livingston Police Officers as electronic search specialists in their respective Project Lifesaver Programs.

Morris County Sheriff's Office Corporal Laura Siemonsma (standing) confers with Sheriff's Office Corporal Erica Valvano during a class they taught to other law enforcement agencies on Project Lifesaver.
Morris County Sheriff’s Office Corporal Laura Siemonsma (standing) confers with Sheriff’s Office Corporal Erica Valvano during a class they taught to other law enforcement agencies on Project Lifesaver.
Morris County Sheriff's Officer Travis Somerville, right, practices with a hand-held receiver as part of his re-certification as an electronic search specialist with the Project Lifesaver Program.
Morris County Sheriff’s Officer Travis Somerville, right, practices with a hand-held receiver as part of his re-certification as an electronic search specialist with the Project Lifesaver Program.

The Morris County Sheriff’s Office oversees one of the largest Project Lifesaver programs in New Jersey, with 135 clients with Alzheimer’s, Autism, Down Syndrome or traumatic brain injury protected through a battery-powered bracelet or anklet if they wander away.

“This simple program is one of the most valuable assets in the Sheriff’s Office for protecting our vulnerable residents and easing anxieties and concerns that caregivers naturally have,” said Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon, who greeted the participants before the session.

Corporals Valvano and Siemonsma-Bertelli on Tuesday, September 10, conducted a day-long training session that certified some Officers for the first time and re-certified others. The program is designed to give caregivers peace of mind and ensure immediate tracking of clients who wander off.

Corporals Siemonsma-Bertelli and Valvano told the class that Sheriff’s Officers also develop a rapport with caregivers and clients through visits to change bracelet and anklet batteries, with assistance from some local police departments. The program provides a terrific community policing opportunity.

The client list also enables the Morris County Sheriff’s Office to alert caregivers about anticipated snowstorms or excessive heat.  Ice for keeping medications cold has been brought to clients during power outages and Corporal Valvano made sure one client had enough wood for the woodstove during a cold snap.

The Morris County Sheriff’s Office training included videos and a power-point presentation on the cognitive conditions of clients in Project Lifesaver programs and cases of how Project Lifesaver might have saved lives of people who wandered off.  Project Lifesaver, now an international program, was started in 1999 by the Chesapeake Sheriff’s Office in Virginia.

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon chats with Livingston Police Officers before the start of a training session on Project Lifesaver taught by Morris County Sheriff's Officers on September 10, 2019.
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon chats with Livingston Police Officers before the start of a training session on Project Lifesaver taught by Morris County Sheriff’s Officers on September 10, 2019.

The training also included hands-on instruction on how to operate a hand-held receiver that tracks the signal emitted from a transmitter inside the bracelet or anklet worn by the client. The transmitters have radio frequencies specific to each client.  In Morris County, it typically takes about 20 minutes to locate a missing Project Lifesaver client after notification is received that he or she has wandered off.

Project Lifesaver International has rescued 3,594 individuals since its inception.

Project Lifesaver enrollment is free in Morris County as the program is funded through a Division on Aging grant and donations.  Sheriff’s Officers in the Office’s Community Outreach and Planning Section are all trained in the program, along with all Sheriff’s Office K-9 Section handlers.

The Morris County Sheriff’s Office started its own Project Lifesaver program – which works even when clients are vacationing away from home – in 2003 for adults and in 2005 for juveniles.

For more information on the Morris County Sheriff’s Office Project Lifesaver program click on:   https://sheriff.morriscountynj.gov/community/project_lifesaver/

 

 

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon Welcomes Six New Officers to Posts at the Morris County Correctional Facility

Six new Morris County Corrections Officers, including four who formerly worked for the Keogh-Dwyer Correctional Facility in Sussex County, were sworn in to their positions during a festive ceremony Tuesday, September 10.

From left, Morris County Correctional Facility Warden Chris Klein, Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon, Corrections Officer Wilder Pereira, Officer Christopher Gray, Officer Jennifer Demarest, Officer Alyssa Jodexnis, Officer Thomas Maroney, Officer Heather Russell, Corrections Captain Steve Piatti, Bureau of Corrections Undersheriff Alan J. Robinson, Corrections Captain James Janzen.
From left, Morris County Correctional Facility Warden Chris Klein, Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon, Corrections Officer Wilder Pereira, Officer Christopher Gray, Officer Jennifer Demarest, Officer Alyssa Jodexnis, Officer Thomas Maroney, Officer Heather Russell, Corrections Captain Steve Piatti, Bureau of Corrections Undersheriff Alan J. Robinson, Corrections Captain James Janzen.
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon greets six new Bureau of Corrections Officers before swearing them in on September 10, 2019.
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon greets six new Bureau of Corrections Officers before swearing them in on September 10, 2019.

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon, who oversees the Morris County Correctional Facility through his Bureau of Corrections, welcomed the new employees. He promised them a safe and challenging work environment and emphasized a harmonious blending between the Bureaus of Corrections and Law Enforcement that comprise the agency.

“The Sheriff’s Office, in both bureaus, is very embedded within the law enforcement community in Morris County,” said Sheriff Gannon, who was joined at the ceremony by Bureau of Corrections Undersheriff Alan J. Robinson, Warden Christopher Klein, Sergeant Andrew Bileci, Captain Steve Piatti and Captain James Janzen.

With their families and friends present to witness the event, the newly-sworn Corrections Officers are: Heather Russell, Alyssa Jodexnis, Jennifer Demarest, Thomas Maroney, Christopher Ronald Gray and Wilder Pereira.

Officers Russell, Jodexnis, Demarest and Maroney previously worked at the Keogh-Dwyer Correctional Facility in Newton, Sussex County, and were hired by the Morris County Sheriff’s Office through an intergovernmental transfer.

Officers Gray and Pereira previously worked as Correctional Police Officers for the state Juvenile Justice Commission. They have several corrections-related classes to complete at the Morris County Police Academy and will graduate in November while the other four officers transferred from Sussex County are fully trained.

Morris and Sussex counties in May 2019 reached a shared services agreement under which female inmates charged in Sussex County are lodged in the Morris County Correctional Facility for $105 per day per inmate, a fee paid by Sussex County. The pact was later amended to allow for most male inmates in Sussex County to also be housed in Morris County.

The new Officers have diverse and compelling backgrounds.

Officer Pereira, who was born and raised in the South American country of Uruguay, struggled with poverty that helped him shape his moral values and belief that nothing should be taken for granted. He came to the United States in 2003.

Officer Russell was the second woman in the history of Centenary College to receive the Criminal Justice Student Achievement Award. After graduating with high honors, she spent four years at the Keogh-Dwyer Correctional Facility and earned a spot in its Special Operations Group.

Officer Russell also trains in Cross Fit and is a certified Krav Maga Instructor.

Officer Jodexnis received her Associate’s Degree from Sussex County Community College and followed in the footsteps of several family members to work in the law enforcement field.

Officer Demarest earned an Associate’s Degree from Sussex County Community College and a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Felician College. A fan of kayaking and fishing, Officer Demarest worked for the Keogh-Dwyer Correctional Facility for three years.

Officer Maroney also obtained an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Sussex County Community College and then graduated with high honors from Centenary College, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice, minored in sociology and received a certificate in Criminalistics. He worked for the Keogh-Dwyer Correctional Facility for three years.

Officer Gray joined the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves in 2011 and was sent to Parris Island in South Carolina for boot camp from which he graduated in September 2011. He graduated in 2017 from the New Jersey Academy Basic Course for Juvenile Corrections and was stationed at the New Jersey Training School for Boys for two years.

 

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon, Command Staff and Honor Guard Pay Respects to Lives Lost on September 11, 2001

   Eighteen years after Welles Remy Crowther died on September 11, 2001, helping people escape the South Tower of the World Trade Center, his mother and sister have found solace in knowing his was a life truly well-lived.
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon speaks with Alison Crowther and Honor Crowther Fagan, the mother and sister, respectively, of 9/11 victim Welles Remy Crowther, who died saving others from the South Tower of the World Trade Center.
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon speaks with Alison Crowther and Honor Crowther Fagan, the mother and sister, respectively, of 9/11 victim Welles Remy Crowther, who died saving others from the South Tower of the World Trade Center.
   “Welles’s friends say ‘Wherever we went, if Welles was with us, we always knew he had our back.’ He was a loyal friend, he was very protective of others,” his mother, Alison Crowther, told the crowd gathered Sunday evening for the 18th Morris County Remembers 9/11 Remembrance and Candlelight Service.
   Alison Crowther and her daughter, Honor (Crowther) Fagan were introduced as the remembrance ceremony keynote speakers by Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon, who told the crowd that Welles Crowther was a hero who disregarded his own safety to rescue others after the terrorist attacks.
   The ceremony at the September 11th Memorial on West Hanover Avenue in Parsippany drew dozens of firefighters, police officers and emergency medical technicians from around the county to pay honor to the lives of the first responders and civilians killed in the attacks, including 64 Morris County residents.
The Morris County Sheriff's Office Honor Guard at the 9/11 Remembrance and Candlelight Vigil held on September 8, 2019.
The Morris County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard at the 9/11 Remembrance and Candlelight Vigil held on September 8, 2019.
   The Morris County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard performed the 21-gun salute at the ceremony and the Sheriff’s Office command staff paid their respects to the memories of the victims and their families, including the parents of 27-year-old 9/11 victim Maria Theresa Santillan of Parsippany. Her father, Expedito C. Santillan, was flag bearer for the ceremony.
   “We call them heroes – men and women who put their own lives at risk for the greater good of others. These brave men and women did what they were trained to do. They did it without question. But there were others who also didn’t hesitate to act on that deadly day,” Sheriff Gannon said.
Command staff of the Morris County Sheriff's Office at the 9/11 Remembrance and Candlelight Vigil on Sept. 8, 2019.
Command staff of the Morris County Sheriff’s Office at the 9/11 Remembrance and Candlelight Vigil on Sept. 8, 2019.
   Welles Crowther, a 24-year-old rookie equities trader who was working on the 104th floor of the South Tower, was among the bravest that day, the Sheriff said.
   With the red bandanna his father gave him when he was a child wrapped around his mouth, Welles Crowther repeatedly returned to the South Tower to save others and carried one woman down 17 floors before the South Tower collapsed. His remains were identified six months later.
   He became known as the “Man in the Red Bandanna” for the red handkerchief he wore as a protective mask, and his story has been told in the documentary film, Man In The Red Bandanna.
   A resident of Rockland County, N.Y., he is annually honored by his alma mater, Boston College. After his death, he was named an honorary New York City firefighter and his heroism was cited by President Barack Obama in the 2014 dedication of the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
   His sister, Honor Fagan, asked the audience to reflect on how they hope to be remembered when they die. Alison Crowther said she hopes that young people, particularly those born after September 11, 2001, will move through their lives with faith and the ability to care about others.
   “Good will conquer, good will conquer evil,” she said.