MAYS LANDING — Thursday brought multiple reasons to celebrate at the Atlantic County Law Enforcement Training Center.
Not only were county officials there to celebrate the opening of the training center’s new location at Atlantic Cape Community College, but the ribbon-cutting fell on the same day the first class of 14 recruits graduated from the new academy.
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“This facility is terrific,” County Executive Dennis Levinson said. “It is a wonderful thing for the students here and most certainly to have the academy here.”
The academy moved from the Anthony “Tony” Canale Training Center in Egg Harbor Township to the campus several months ago, after it was approved by the Atlantic County Board of Freeholders in January.
The center, which houses offices and four classrooms, offers preliminary and advanced training, including in-service classes and continuing education for current law enforcement.
Having the training center on the campus is not only helpful for recruits who want to set a plan for their education, officials said, but also to give students an opportunity to check out a career path they may not have considered.
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It “can be a career ladder,” said Barbara Gaba, president of the college. “It’s a very good educational pathway in their field.”
Academy graduates may be eligible for college credits toward degrees in criminal justice and science, including courses of study at the Rutgers University campus at Atlantic Cape, she said.
While some jobs in law enforcement require minimal education to start, in order to move up the ranks, recruits will find they need advanced degrees, said Michael Fedorko, head of the county’s Department of Public Safety.
“Education is really important, and we stress that to the recruits,” Fedorko said. “And down the road, it’s important to get the degree.”
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With the training center now situated on a busy campus, it gives students who may not have considered a career in law enforcement a peek into what it could be like, Fedorko said, adding that heavy law enforcement presence on the campus is a natural deterrent for crime as well.
Thursday’s graduates were the first class of correctional police officers in the county in four years. They join 500 others who have graduated from the county’s training program through 23 other classes since the late 1990s.
“It’s nice to see something that you’ve planned for and hoped for to come to fruition,” said Ed Thornton, the academy’s director of training. “To see the class come together and grow as a unit, it’s quite gratifying, as an instructor.”