BERNARDS TWP., NJ _ Two new police officers were sworn into their roles this week, and a third is expected later this month to take an oath to join the force to fill all existing and pending vacancies on the 38-member force.

The two rookie patrol officers, Nicholas Dante and Dustin Lopez, were due to begin working immediately after they took their oaths at the June 11 Township Committee meeting. Both were surrounded by family members. 

A third new patrol officer, Alec McCrea, was also officially hired this week, and is due to be sworn in later this month, Police Chief Michael Shimsky told the audience, which included other township police officers.

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As per the PBA contract with the township, the new police officers will start at an annual salary of $49,992, according to township figures.

Shimsky said that both Dante and Lopez are graduates of Bridgewater-Raritan High School, and also received associate degrees in criminal justice from Raritan Valley Community College.

Dante, who attended the John Stamler Police Academy, comes from a position with the Somerset County sheriff's department.

Lopez is a graduate of the Camden County Police Academy.

The Township Committee also voted unanimously to hire McCrea, who is a graduate of Paramus High School, and received a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from the University of Tampa before attending the Morris County Police Academy. He served in the United States Air Force from 2017 to 2019, according to his biographical information.

The three vacancies on the force were created by one resignation and the retirements of two veteran officers, Capt. Mark Leopold, who retired in May, and the department's Deputy Police Chief, Michael Voorhees, who is due to retire on July 1 following 26 years with the department.

As part of the aftermath of Voorhees' pending retirement, the Township Committee this week gave final approval to a revision to the police department's structure, eliminating the position of Deputy Police Chief. That position was first held by Shimsky as he prepared to move into the position of chief prior to former chief Brian Bobowicz's retirement. The department will again add a fourth lieutenant's position.