Twenty-six men and women were welcomed to careers as corrections officers at their graduation this week from a rigorous 10-week training course at the Morris County Public Safety Training Academy.
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon offered encouragement and congratulations to the new officers who comported themselves with military bearing at the April 8th commencement.
Entrusted to humanely guard inmates and thereby protect society, corrections officers should never forget the victims and survivors behind the crimes, the Sheriff said.
Ten of the 26 graduates will work for the Sheriff’s Office at the Morris County Correctional Facility while the 16 other new officers have been hired to work at correctional facilities in Warren, Hunterdon, Hudson, Passaic and Somerset counties.
Officers at the Morris County Correctional Facility see about 3,000 inmates annually. Some have mental health disorders and half suffer from drug addiction.
“You may be the only role model, male or female, the inmate has,” Sheriff Gannon told the officers.
The 18th Basic Course for County Corrections Officers started with 39 recruits. By the end of 10 weeks of training in physical fitness, criminal law, human behavior, decision-making, first aid, investigative procedures and firearms, 26 people graduated with certifications as corrections officers.
The new officers hired by the Morris County Sheriff’s Office Bureau of Corrections are: Travis M. Dean, David Frisch, Evan May, Dominick J. Nicastro Jr., Matthew Santangelo, Christopher Smolt, Robert Takacs, Lundrim Veliu, Chelsea Whiting and James H. Woltman Jr.
Officer Frisch achieved the highest grade in the class in effective use of firearms.
Academy Director Daniel H. Colucci, who welcomed the new officers and their families at the April 8th ceremony, is credited with restoring the corrections class program to the Morris County Public Safety Training Academy in Parsippany in 2015.
Saluting the new officers – and receiving a salute in return – Sheriff Gannon presented the officers with their certificates.
Joining the Sheriff at the ceremony were Morris County Freeholder Deborah Smith, Morris County Bureau of Corrections Undersheriff Alan J. Robinson, Warden Chris Klein, Academy Rangemaster Mark Meehan and Training Instructors Paul Carifi Jr. and Jack Ambrose, an East Hanover Township Police Captain.
“Corrections is not an easy job,” the Sheriff said. “It requires common sense, intelligence, tact, diplomacy, sensitivity, hard work and restraint to deal with some of the more difficult people in our society.”
“The training you received at the Academy helped prepare you for that. But tap into the knowledge your superiors have. Follow their lead,” the Sheriff said.
Of about 64 classes taught in the corrections course, 57 of them are taught by seasoned Morris County Corrections Officers.
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon partnered with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka on a panel discussion of community outreach and alternative policing methods at a symposium in Belleville Tuesday that brought together federal, county and state leaders to strategize on curbing the nation’s opioid epidemic.
The symposium, attended by about 300 law enforcement and judicial representatives, was hosted by the City of Newark Department of Public Safety in collaboration with the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Craig Carpenito, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office and the Essex County Sheriff’s Office.
Sharing the dais with Mayor Baraka for a discussion moderated by Newark Department of Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose, Sheriff Gannon highlighted outreach programs he has instituted, including his hallmark Hope One mobile substance use recovery and resource vehicle.
The city of Newark researched Morris County’s program and launched its own Hope One-Newark mobile program in December.
Since the Hope One vehicle started its biweekly stops in Morris County on April 3, 2017, it has made 247 stops in areas where fatal overdoses are occurring and at-risk and homeless people are known to be living. The Hope One staff, overseen by Morris County Sheriff’s Office Corporal Erica Valvano – who drove the vehicle to the symposium at Nanina’s In The Park in Belleville – has made 6,445 contacts with individuals since the launch and trained 1,651 people in the life-saving overdose antidote NARCAN.
While Morris County law enforcement agencies are aggressive against drug dealers, and the Morris County Sheriff’s Office assisted in the March takedown of a heroin pill mill suspected of causing at least 84 deaths with its product, there also is a duty to help users ravaged by addiction, Sheriff Gannon said.
“This drug problem makes us wear two hats,” Sheriff Gannon said in his remarks. “We have to maintain our warrior status. We have to focus on the identification, arrest and conviction of the for-profit opioid dealer.”
“But I think we need that guardian piece. In your communities, people are dying from opioid addiction,” the Sheriff said.
The sheriff noted “a mosaic of programs” that address substance use disorders in Morris County, including the STAR program started at the Morris County Correctional Facility in October to assist inmates about to be discharged re-enter society with housing, medical and social plans in place. The Sheriff’s Office on April 3 – the two-year anniversary of the Hope One program – launched the Police Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative (PAARI) that involves local police officers helping people struggling with addiction to connect with certified peer recovery specialists.
Recovering opioid user Alton Robinson, a certified peer recovery specialist who has worked aboard Hope One in Morris County, gave the audience a glimpse into his addiction and how he was ready to make a life change during his last arrest in 2014. Robinson thanked police officers for the humane way they treated him, and said officers well-trained in dealing with people struggling with addiction can be “the first line of salvation.”
The symposium provided attendees with the chance to network and hear from other county and federal officials on criminal justice programs that take into account the immense challenges facing substance users.
Dr. Doug Marlowe, Chief of Science, Law and Policy at the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, gave the audiences a riveting look at the neuroscience of addiction. Dr. Marlowe opined that incarceration is completely ineffective against addiction, which virtually always requires medication therapy.
“Incarceration has no therapeutic value,” he said.
The symposium speakers included: Hon. Jose L. Linares, Chief Judge for the District of New Jersey; Newark Public Safety Director Anthony F. Ambrose; Essex County Sheriff Armando B. Fontoura; Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore “Ted” Stephens, II; and U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Craig Carpenito.
Speakers also included: U.S. District Judge Hon. Esther Salas, U.S. Magistrate Judge Hon. Michael Hammer, Chief of U.S. Pretrial Services Agency Christine A. Dozier, Senior Deputy Chief U.S. Probation Officer Maureen Kelly, NJ Special Agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration Susan Gibson, and State Police Major Mike Rinaldi.
The Morris County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Section was featured April 5 in a Channel 9 “Chasing News” segment hosted by TV personality and news analyst Bill Spadea.
“Chasing News” reporter Monica Guy traveled April 4 to the Sheriff’s Office’s K-9 kennels and training grounds, where she interviewed K-9 Section Detective Sergeant Aaron Tomasini and K-9 Sheriff’s Officer Marc Adamsky, and filmed K-9 Kiara and K-9 Tim in training.
The segment was related to a state Attorney General directive that K-9 dogs no longer will be used to sniff out marijuana. Canines with the Morris County Sheriff’s Office are used for multiple purposes, including search and rescue, patrols, narcotics and accelerant detection.