Winter Storm Jonas was mere hours away but that didn’t keep a crowd from gathering inside the Arthur F. Couch Performing Arts Center on Friday, Jan. 22 for the Secaucus Police Department’s Valor Awards Ceremony.
At the event, police were honored for acts ranging from talking a man out of suicide to apprehending a robbery suspect.
Last year a similar ceremony was held in the same space by the Policeman’s Benevolent Association. “Those were union awards by the union,” explained Police Chief Kevin Flaherty.
“The department itself hasn’t given out awards in several years,” said Police Capt. Dennis Miller. “Chief Flaherty is the first chief in a long time to enact an awards ceremony.”
Miller served as master of ceremonies for the event, with Flaherty presenting the awards to the deserving officers. An additional award was given to the members of the Department of Public Works for their support of the department.
Excellent Police Service Award
“Sometimes we forget to honor the good deeds that the police officers do,” said Flaherty in his opening remarks. “The nature of police work is you go to an incident, you solve the problem, and then you move on to the next problem. The purpose of this [event] is to recognize officers so we remember what they did.”
Guest speaker Mayor Michael Gonnelli spoke glowingly of the men and women of the department.
“I’m proud of the leadership standing behind me,” he said. “I’m proud of the fact that I know that they’re leading this department in the right direction. I’m proud of each and every new, young officer we have, and there’s many. I’m proud of what you guys do every day out on the street. I’m proud that we went through such a vigorous accreditation process and passed with flying colors.”
After a long and grueling process, the Secaucus Police Department received accreditation this year from the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police.
Police Department personnel received awards in several categories. The Excellent Police Service Award was awarded for performance based upon dedication, perseverance, skill, motivation, capability, or a highly creditable accomplishment.
The incidents cited included numerous life-saving actions, such as performing CPR on individuals who were not breathing, administering nasal Narcan to individuals who had overdosed, or carrying disabled women from homes filled with smoke during house fires.
“Sometimes we forget to honor the good deeds that the police officers do.” – Police Chief Kevin Flaherty
Also noted were a number of incidents where the officers were involved in the apprehension of criminals, including a gang member in possession of 589 bags of heroin; a youth in possession of a .45 caliber handgun; and a six-time convicted felon in possession of a 9 mm handgun, crack cocaine, marijuana, and $12,860 in counterfeit currency.
Other arrests included an individual involved in a large street fight at a local tavern resulting in multiple stabbings; an individual in possession of 17 pounds of marijuana and $30,506 in suspected drug proceeds; and an individual in possession of a stolen vehicle following the attempted theft of $181,000 worth of property.
The recipients were P.O. Robert Napoleon, P.O. Matthew Ford, P.O. Marc Schoch, Lt. Edward Zloty Jr., P.O. Vince DeFazio, Sgt. Michael Viggiani, P.O. Roderick Aninipot, Sgt. Brian Kantor, and P.O. George Sikaffy.
Meritorious duty and unit citations
The Meritorious Duty Citation recognizes specific department members and employees whose performance clearly surpasses normal requirements, but does not quite warrant the Excellent Police Service Award.
Examples included persuading a distraught and suicidal male with access to firearms to seek medical attention; assisting in the apprehension of a suspected car thief; and assisting in the apprehension of a man with a rifle on a woman’s property.
The recipients were Det. Lt. Thomas O’Keeffe, P.O. Linda Mangone, P.O. William Smith, Dispatcher Thomas Meicke, Sgt. Kimberly Elphick, P.O. Marc Schoch, P.O. William Eccles, and P.O. Vince DeFazio.
The Police Chief’s Unit Citation recognizes department members or employees of a division, bureau, shift, unit, or detail whose performance in carrying out a project, extended assignment, or during an unusual operation situation was so outstanding as to warrant special recognition.
Examples included pursuing and arresting a robbery suspect after a struggle; serving as backup at the scene of a large street fight with multiple stabbings; participating in an exhaustive search for fleeing burglars in conjunction with Bergen County Police K-9 units and a helicopter; and participating in a year-long undercover investigation to combat the crimes of human trafficking and promoting and engaging in prostitution.
The recipients were Sgt. Charles Firtion, Lt. Edwards Zloty Jr., P.O. Linda Mangone, P.O. Roderick Aninipot, P.O. Robert Applegate, P.O. Michael Pappas, P.O. Jude Masullo, P.O. Orlando Gonzalez Jr., Dispatcher Debra DeFelice, P.O. Matthew Ford, P.O. Peter Garass, Dt. Lt. Thomas O’Keeffe, Det. Lt. Dominick DeGennaro, Det. Sgt. Austin Hawxhurst, Det Sgt. Michael Torres, P.O. Daniel Dobosz, Det. Joshua Sigmund, P.O. Christina Prospero, P.O. Leonardo Minervini, P.O. Thomas Keegan, P.O. Jerome Mercado, Sgt. Francis Cotter, Lt. Joseph Steneck, Sheriff’s Officer Roberto Camporeale, and Sheriff’s Officer Michael Negron.
Recognizing community service
Members of the DPW were called to the stage to receive the Police Chief’s Community Service Award. Thirty-two individuals were named, including DPW Superintendent Kevin O’Connor and Assistant Superintendent Raymond Ciecuch.
“The Secaucus Department of Public Works assisted us in achieving accreditation in slightly less than a year,” explained Miller. “The Department of Public Works renovated areas of police headquarters and installed new equipment to bolster efficiency of the Secaucus Police Department. Each worker here exhibited professionalism, dedication, and displayed an overall hardworking attitude, which directly correlated to achieving accreditation.”
Father Vic Kennedy performed the invocation and benediction at the ceremony, and Sydney Fournier sang the National Anthem.
Art Schwartz may be reached at email@example.com.
Two officers promoted to sergeant
Bolstering superior officer ranks as four retire
The Town Council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 26 was preceded by the promotion of two Secaucus policemen to the rank of sergeant. Scott Coar and Daniel Dobosz both took the oath before a room crowded with friends, family, and colleagues.
“One thing in police work is that it never stops and it’s in constant motion,” said Police Chief Kevin Flaherty, noting that two sergeants and two lieutenants would be retiring from the force within the next month or so. “These two promotions maintain the command structure within the department and it’ll make us, going forward, stronger.”
He noted that in his opinion the sergeant’s job is the best in the department – and the hardest to learn. “In the past you’ve been responsible for yourself and your own actions,” he told the promotees. “Now you have to be responsible for your squad and for the people underneath you.”
Coar has been a member of the Secaucus Police Department for 10 years. Dobosz is in his eleventh year.
“Your responsibilities now will be a lot greater than they were in the past. And we all have the utmost confidence that you will do as good a job [as a sergeant] as you did as a patrolman,” Mayor Michael Gonnelli told the two new officers.
The promotions to sergeant follow promotions last month of three officers to the rank of captain. Joseph Baccola, Dennis Miller, and Carlos Goyenchea took the oath at the Town Council meeting on Dec. 16. The department previously had no captains.
“Over the last few years there’s been some pretty drastic changes made to our police department, and I think all for the better,” said Gonnelli. “Not only have we increased the number of officers, we’ve kind of balanced that with our superior officers.”
Councilman Gary Jeffas pointed out that the restructuring in the department would result in a cost savings due to the retirements.