Once again, Kearny’s public safety rosters have been bolstered with last week’s appointment of 12 police officers and seven firefighters.
After the police rookies complete 22 weeks of mandated training at the Bergen County Police Academy by mid-December and hit the streets, the KPD ranks — assuming no retirements — will number 107, according to Chief John Dowie.
Technically, Dowie said, that total is five above the KPD maximum permitted under town ordinance (Table of Organization); however, the town has authorized him to exceed that number because he has several inactive members.
Later, Mayor Alberto Santos elaborated, saying that, “Due to sick leaves, suspensions and normal attrition, we have gone higher than the TO … knowing that, by the time the new appointees finish the Academy, KPD will be at or close to the effective TO number.
“Should that not be the case at the time of the swearings-in of the new officers, then we would consider amending the TO,” the mayor said. “However, based on past history, I doubt that will occur.”
Dowie told the packed house of appointees’ relatives and well-wishers that the newbies are needed now more than ever, with the department on a pace to exceed the number of jobs to which it responded in 2016.
As an example of just how busy things get, the chief noted that, “By midnight this past Saturday night, the phones hadn’t stopped ringing and we ran out of police bodies on the street. We had to call people out on overtime.”
Dowie credited the mayor and Town Council for taking his request for more personnel seriously and ensuring there was enough money budgeted for the new hires.
Of approximately 130 applicants the town ended up vetting, only about “one in 10” made it through, he noted. Dowie urged the rookies to take pride in that accomplishment.
The new cops, listed in order of their scoring on the state Civil Service test, are: Matthew Knighton, 23; John Fearon, 20; Ryan Stickno, 22; Nicole Williams, 26; Mathew Lopez, 19; Joao Gomes, 29; Anthony Oliveira, 22; Joshua Lopez, 19; Harold Azurdia, 25; Kevin Carvalho, 24;Leticia Parada, 24; and Christopher Montes, 27.
Knighton and Parada are from Newark; the rest are Kearny residents.
With the two female recruits, the KPD now has a total of eight women members.
Eight of the appointees are bi-lingual and three speak three languages. Seven have college degrees and two have associate degrees. Two have military service.
Knighton is a U.S. Army sergeant and Army Reservist who studied criminal justice at Essex County College; Fearon is a St. Peter’s Prep graduate who studied engineering at Rutgers University; Stickno, whose brother Alan is a KPD officer, is a Prep alum who has a business–administration degree from St. Joseph’s College; Williams, whose dad Glenn is a local firefighter and whose grandfather Ken is a retired KPD officer, has an elementary school teaching certificate from Bloomsburg University, Pa.; Mathew Lopez, whose dad Felix is a Bayonne firefighter, is a lifeguard trainer and hockey referee and worked as a technician at Rick’s Auto Body in North Arlington; Gomes, who has a finance degree from Rutgers, worked for US Bancorp and Coccia Realty; Oliveira, whose brother is a N.J. State Police sergeant, has a business management degree from Rowan University and interned with Atalanta Sosnoff Capital; Joshua Lopez served with the North Arlington Volunteer Emergency Squad; Azurdia has an associate’sdegree from Bergen County College and was a special police officer in Ridgefield; Carvalho studied criminal justice at Union County College and worked at Columbia Bank; Parada has a criminal justice degree from Rutgers and was a legal secretary for West Orange attorney Dennis Cleary; and Montes, an Army Reservist since 2011, studied with the University of Phoenix and worked as a mechanic with Mercedes Benz.
Each of the new cops will earn $43,965 a year as starting pay.
Fire Chief Steve Dyl said that when his seven new hires finish their two weeks of EMT training at Jersey City Medical Center, followed by six weeks of firefighter training at Morris County Fire Academy by mid-November, that will bring the total strength of the KFD to 101, one short of the department TO.
The new firefighters, picked from 175 applicants, will each receive a starting salary of $33,000 a year.
Those probies are: Dylan Schalago, 23; Daniel Madden, 28; Andrew J. Taylor, 36; Ethan Evanchick, 23; Jay Mora, 33; Christopher Vezos, 22; and Matthew Miller, 22. Mora lives in Newark; the rest are from Kearny.
Schalago, who attended Bergen County College, worked as a custodian for the Kearny Board of Education; Madden studied fire science and arson investigation at NJCU and served as a firefighter in East Providence, R.I., since May 2015; Taylor, whose dad is a retired Kearny police officer, has a culinary arts degree from Johnson & Wales and was a chef with Gourmet Dining; Evanchick, whose mother Susan works in the Kearny Construction Office, majored in sports administration at FDU and has overseen events at Floyd Hall Arena at Montclair University since 2015; Mora, a graduate of East Side High School, Newark, completed his certification as a PC technician with Cittone Institute/Lincoln Tech and was an IT specialist with Ferring Pharmaceuticals; Vezos, who studied criminal justice at Bergen County College, has been a special KPD police officer, assigned to municipal court, since November 2016; and Miller, whose cousins are KFD Capt. Victor Girdwood and Firefighter Haley Girdwood, studied global fitness and wellness at Kean University and has worked as an EMT for Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center since December 2016.