News from the Somerset County Board of County Commissioners

Shanel Y. Robinson, Commissioner Director Ÿ Sara Sooy, Commissioner Deputy Director

Melonie Marano, Commissioner Ÿ Paul M. Drake, Commissioner Ÿ Douglas Singleterry, Commissioner

 

 

Somerset County Five New Police Academy Scholarships to Help Diversify Local Departments

Five Somerset County Residents Will Attend the Police Academy Funded by Somerset County with Guaranteed Positions upon Graduation

SOMERVILLE, NJ – The Somerset County’s Board of Commissioners and Somerset County Prosecutor John P. McDonald celebrated the third round of police academy scholarships at a welcome ceremony during the recent Commissioners Meeting. The scholarships, funded by President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan and overseen by the Somerset County Prosecutor’s office, are focused on helping local police forces diversify to ensure they reflect the local communities they serve.

“This police scholarship program has been an amazing success, helping local residents who may not have been able to afford the academy become police officers in the communities where they were raised,” said Somerset County Prosecutor John P. McDonald. “The program is having its intended effect, diversifying our local law enforcement with highly intelligent, motivated young men and women who truly represent their community.”

Nine departments have selected a total of twelve scholarship recipients since 2022 when the program was launched: Bound Brook, Branchburg, Hillsborough, Manville, Montgomery, North Plainfield, Raritan, South Bound Brook, and Watchung. These departments committed to providing two years of employment as an officer to scholarship recipients who successfully complete their Police Academy training. Seven new officers are already working, and they will be joined by the five 2024 scholarship recipients when they successfully complete their academy training.

“I look at these applicants and know they help ensure that the police officers truly represent their communities, a prime goal of our police scholarship program,” said Somerset County Commissioner Director Shanel Y. Robinson. “I am particularly proud that eight of the twelve recipients are young women, a significantly underrepresented population when it comes to local law enforcement.”

2022 Scholarship Recipients (All Protecting and Serving)

  • Steffany Marroquin, North Plainfield Police Department
  • Christopher Monrroy, Watchung Police Department

2023 Scholarship Recipients (All Protecting and Serving)

  • Nazceer Whitley, Bound Brook Police Department
  • Sara Harrilal, Hillsborough Police Department
  • Jeff Sumbana, Manville Police Department
  • Alyssa Myrnyj, Raritan Police Department
  • Cindy Aldana, Watchung Police Department

2024 Scholarship Recipients (Entering Academy, Photos Attached)

  • Brianna Robinson, Bound Brook Police Department
  • Joanna Coppola, Branchburg Police Department
  • Vanessa Hunter, Montgomery Police Department
  • Kimberly Vasquez, South Bound Brook Police Department
  • Gianmarco Acevedo, Watchung Police Department

As has been noted by various studies and self-assessments by law-enforcement, the makeup of local police departments is often not reflective of the communities that they serve. Specifically, police departments throughout the State of New Jersey and in particular Somerset County do not have officers that adequately reflect their communities from a racial, gender, or cultural perspective. The Somerset County Police Scholarship Program was created to address this issue.

Somerset County has also been successfully partnering with municipalities and local law enforcement since 2020 to improve the relationships between communities and police. A major step forward was the Community Policing Alliance partnership developed with the Bridgewater Police Department that embedded a county-employed social worker with the police to help individuals and families find help and support to reduce the need for law enforcement and the courts to get involved. This program has been so successful in making a difference in local residents’ lives that it has been expanded to Bound Brook and is currently in discussions to expand to additional communities. More information on the Community Police Alliance is at https://www.co.somerset.nj.us/government/human-services/operations-planning/community-police-alliance.

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