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Sheriff Swears in New & Promoted Officers

Post Date:07/13/2018 3:34 PM
Sheriff & Honor Guard in historic courthouse

The Somerset County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard presents the colors at the historic courthouse in Somerville during a swearing-in ceremony. Sheriff Frank J. Provenzano, left at podium, leads the Pledge of Allegiance.

SOMERVILLE – Somerset County Sheriff Frank J. Provenzano held a swearing-in ceremony June 7 for newly hired and promoted officers.  Superior Court Judge Michael J. Rogers administered the oaths in the county’s historic courthouse on East Main Street.

Sheriff Provenzano welcomed the Rev. Joseph Lugo as chaplain of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office, announced 3 promotions and 15 new hires in the Corrections Division, and presented seven recognition awards. The new employees were added to accommodate bail reform and to replace retirees.   

“The Somerset County Sheriff’s Office provides quality services, thanks in large part to our dedicated employees,” said Sheriff Provenzano. “It  takes teamwork, buy-in and commitment to offer a diverse range of services, including the  K-9 Unit, Project Lifesaver Program, unwanted-medications collection, HERO designated-driver program, Special Response Team, Gang Unit, a senior safety program, a school resource officer at the Vo-Tech High School working with our children, weekend inmate work detail, child seat installation and other safety programs, the Sheriff’s Color Guard, an Adopt-A-Road Program, a new Project Lifesaver search-and-rescue drone, and our annual ‘Toys for Tots’ collection.”

Promoted personnel included:

Chief Frank Apisa – A 25-year veteran of the Corrections Division, he is responsible for 117 uniformed staff members to ensure the proper and lawful operation of the county jail.  He also is responsible for all purchasing, budgetary items, payroll and scheduling.

Lt. Keith Covert – During his 16 years in the Corrections Division, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant in 2011 and to classification supervisor in 2014. He oversees the intake and discharge of inmates.  In September 2015, he helped to facilitate the merger of the Hunterdon and Somerset county jails.

Lt. Donald Essig – A 27-year veteran of the Corrections Division, he was promoted to the rank of corporal in 2004 and to sergeant in 2009. He serves as lieutenant commander of the Sheriff’s Response Team, commander of the Correctional Response Team, a firearms instructor, a member of the Project Life Saver team and the tactical sub-committee. He also is a member of the NJ JSMART program, which is responsible for a statewide task force to protect the judiciary and statewide protective intelligence database. He holds certifications in chemical munitions, vehicle operations, riot control, physical fitness training, assault rifle, sub-gun and shotgun.

New hires sworn in included:

Officer Norberto Estrella-Taveras – Born and raised in New Brunswick, he attended Berkeley College and focused on criminal justice. He became a volunteer fire fighter and was auxiliary officer with the Edison Police Department.  He also intends to complete his degree while employed with Somerset County Corrections.

Officer Shawn Dwyer – A graduate of Immaculata High School, he was a three-year varsity football letter winner and a Presidential Volunteer Service award recipient. He graduated from DeSales University with a bachelor’s degree in sports management and played on the club rugby team. He is an active volunteer for the Jack Gardner Softball Tournament, which assists families with special needs children, and is an assistant high school football coach.

Officer Michael Stephenson – He played varsity football and lacrosse at Immaculata High School, and graduated from Centenary College with a bachelor’s degree in individualized studies and a concentration in criminal justice. Prior to his employment with Somerset County, he was a deputy with the Essex County Sheriff’s Office.

Officer Keith Moran – A graduate of Montgomery High School, he obtained an associate’s degree in liberal arts, with a concentration on sports management, from Dean Junior College in Massachusetts. He also received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Centenary College in Hackettstown. In high school and college, he played and lettered as a baseball pitcher. 

Officer Brooke Nikola – She graduated summa cum laude from Centenary College, where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. She served as a forensic science teaching assistant, a board member of the Sociology Criminal Justice Club, and as an ambassador and representative of the college.

Officer Tommy Hom – In Colonia High School, he played soccer and hockey and served as team captain.  He graduated from Middlesex County College with an associate’s degree in criminal justice, and from New Jersey City University with a bachelor’s degree in national security studies. He also completed an internship with the Woodbridge Police Department.

Officer William Kimball – He grew up in Pittstown and graduated from Delaware Valley Regional High School, where he lettered in wrestling and cross country. He earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology at West Virginia University and serves as an assistant wrestling coach for Delaware Valley Regional High School and for the Wildcat Wrestling Club. He also is a rugby player for the Morris Rugby Football Club.

Officer Gregory Featherman - Born and raised in Lewisburg, P.A., he graduated from Lewisburg Area High School, where he played football, wrestling, and track & field. He earned a degree in Applied Health Science from the Pennsylvania College of Technology and was active with his local fire department.  After relocating to Somerville, he took classes at the Somerset County Emergency Services Training Academy and has since become a member of Somerville Fire Department Engine #1.

Officer Matthew Yapaola – A graduate of Hackettstown High School, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in criminology and a minor in forensics from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Before joining Somerset County, he was employed with the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office and the Warren County Department of Weights and Measures.

Officer Cristian Perez - He attended school in Bridgewater and graduated from Universal Technical Institute in Exton, P.A, with a degree in automotive technologies. Prior to joining Somerset County, he was employed as a technician for Toyota.

Officer Tyler Backer - Attended West Morris Central High School. Graduated from the University of Phoenix with an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice and is currently working towards a Bachelor’s Degree.

Officer Marsha Burke – A graduate of Hillsborough High School, she has been employed by Somerset County for 17 years.

Officer Daniel Castro – He graduated from Manville High School where he competed in track and served as captain of the varsity soccer team. He earned an associate’s degree in criminal justice from Raritan Valley Community College in 2014 and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Kean University in 2016.

Officer Matthew Kanaley – A graduate of South Plainfield High School, he attended Middlesex County College and is pursuing a degree in criminal justice. He is an avid ice hockey player and holds a black belt (first degree) in Karate.

Sheriff Provenzano also presented the following awards

Gift of Remembrance

Chief Gary Scott Hoats, who served in the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office for over 34 years, passed away in December 2017. In honor of his memory, a gift was presented to his family on behalf of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office Corrections Division; Sheriffs Association of New Jersey Executive Director John Armeno; Gloucester County Warden Eugene Caldwell, who is serving as president of the New Jersey County Jail Wardens Association; and New Jersey Association of Counties Executive Director John Donnadio.

Chief Hoats will be remembered for his dedication, leadership and friendship to the Corrections Division and the citizens of Somerset County. He was appointed to the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office in 1983, after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Kings College.

Sheriff’s Office Recognition Award

This award was presented to Sgt. Michael Vanover, in recognition of his efforts to modernize the Sheriff’s Office media platform.

Civilian Recognition Awards were presented to:

Kim VanNote, niece of Sgt. John Basilone and member of the Basilone Memorial Foundation, for raising funds to purchase a protective vest for a Somerset County Sheriff’s Office K-9.  In remembrance of WWII hero Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone, the K-9 was named Basilone. Each K-9 vest costs $2,800.  Due to the generous contributions from the community, there was no cost to taxpayers.

James Wiater, local children’s book author, received an award for using proceeds of his children’s book, titled “The Adventures of Solo, The Big Dog,” to donate a K-9 vest to the Sheriff’s Office. The book was named after K-9 Solo, who was killed in the line of duty in Bradley Beach in 1998.  Since the book was published in 2016, Wiater has donated several articles of K-9 safety equipment, oxygen kits and a K-9 trauma kit to law enforcement agencies. 

Mary Beth Ferris, director of the Branchburg Recreation Department, raised $6,150 to offset the cost of K-9 dog food, equipment, routine and emergency veterinary expenses, training classes, materials, vehicle equipment and other expenses. 

Craig Calderaro/The Anthony Calderaro Fund - The Calderaro family donated $6000 to the Sheriff’s Office for the purpose of developing awareness and addressing the severity of opioid and heroin addiction. The money was donated through the “Anthony Calderaro Fund,” which was created in memory of their son, who tragically succumbed to heroin addiction in 2016.

Leslie Gable & Jerri Collevechio (Safe Communities Coalition) were recognized for their role in organizing the “Safe Communities Coalition,” which promotes community collaboration, environmental change and education in an effort to raise awareness and eliminate prescription drug abuse, underage drinking and the use of tobacco, marijuana and other drugs in Hunterdon and Somerset counties.

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