Special-needs cadets complete law enforcement training in Monmouth County
Sixteen weeks after the launch of New Jersey's first countywide pilot program that offers law enforcement internships to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, five cadets became the first graduates with a special ceremony at the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office.
With their families in attendance, along with members of the law enforcement community, the young men received completion certificates from their respective law enforcement agencies, and the gift of a New Jersey State Police patch from Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.
"What's being done here in Monmouth County should be a model for the rest of our state," Grewal said during the Wednesday morning event.
Ivan Aguire, Nicholas Vales, Matthew Zehl, Travis White and Alexander Vasquez volunteered up to 12 hours weekly for four months, assisting in tasks from record-filing to court security.
Participating agencies included the prosecutor's office and the police departments of Red Bank, Eatontown, Marlboro and Holmdel. The Growth Through Opportunity program, supported by grants from The Arc of the United States and The Arc of New Jersey, aims to give special-needs citizens the opportunity to gain valuable job and social skills, in non-emergency situations.
"When I look at the five young men that sit before me, three words come to mind: courage, commitment, and character. Those are three very important traits," said Marlboro Police Chief Peter Pezzullo.
Pezzullo said the cadets evolved over the 16-week program, and "changed the lives" of those who work for the participating agencies.
"Mentorship does not stop the day that you graduate," he told the men. "We will be mentors for you throughout the rest of your lives. You need us, call us, we'll be there for you."
Upon completion of the program, Eatontown Police Department decided to hire their cadet, Nicholas, for a paid position.
"His work ethic speaks volumes of the man he is, and we couldn't let that go," said Eatontown Police Capt. Theresa Healy.
Nicholas said the many hours spent with police department were "fantastic," and he's excited to start an official role next week.
The Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office expects to run another round of the program sometime soon.
"This might be the best thing that I get to do as prosecutor," said county prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at email@example.com.