PATERSON, NJ - Just a week after officials swore 16 new members into the force, a formal ceremony held in the council chambers of city hall saw 12 new police candidates take their oaths and commit to six months of training required to become members of the Paterson Police Department.
After a welcome by Lt. Todd Pearl, prayer provided bookends for the session as Paterson Police Chaplains, Rev. Kenneth Clayton and Pastor Felix Vanlentin, offered the invocation and the final blessing, respectively.
Mayor Andre Sayegh referred to the new recruits as “The Diverse Dozen” and challenged each trainee to persevere, complete their initiation, and become “The Determined Dozen.”
“The year 2020 was both unprecedented and unpredictable and marked by tragedy and tumult,” the mayor said, speaking directly to the rookies-to-be. “It’s not been easy. We had to postpone training due to the coronavirus. In this city we need you now, more than ever.”
This past July, the department received a $1.88 million COPS grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to bolster community policing. Sayegh said that the city’s goal is to bring the number of active police officers up to the allowed capacity of 419. He also referenced the implementation of body cameras and the near conclusion of a complete police audit, soon to be released.
Prior to the swearing-in, family members of candidate Mauel Lojo spoke of the Paterson resident’s lifelong dream of joining law enforcement.
“I’ve known Manuel for many years,” Karen Guttierez, Lojo’s fiancé, stated, adding the pair are to be married in November. The proud partner listed off Lojo’s qualifications that included attending New Jersey City University where he majored in criminal justice.
Guttierez acknowledged the challenges and danger of police work but said she was not reticent about her true love becoming one of the Silk City’s finest. “I know the Paterson Police Department does a great job fending for themselves out in the real world, so I know that Manuel will be prepared,” Guttierez elaborated.
Lojo’s aunt, Maria Sieira, also attended the ceremony and his uncle, 20-year Paterson Police Officer Juan Sieira stoodby in full uniform. “I feel great about my nephew becoming an officer,” Officer Sieira stated. “It’s been his lifelong dream.
"I’ve told him to be careful and that there are difficult experiences he will face. The main thing is that you learn as you grow. Safety is the goal, and to come home at the end of the night.”
In a moving address, Police Director Jerry Speziale said the event marked, “a new year and a new sense of hope and responsibility.”
“Make a difference over these next 25 to 30 years,” the decorated career law enforcement officials told the recruits, urging them to follow the Golden Rule. “Your profession is like no other. Never miss an opportunity to make a positive impact on someone.”
Admitting that the past year had been one of his most challenging in nearly four decades of law enforcement, Speziale stated, “Everyone was touched by this global pandemic and the very pillars of our democracy were challenged.”
“We don’t see race, ethnicity, or gender, in the Paterson Police Department, we see people,” Speziale continued. “You (the recruits) are the moral moorings of freedom. Today our city becomes a little bit safer and a little bit brighter because of you. Treat people how you would want your families and yourselves to be treated.”
Police Chief Ibrahim “Mike” Baycora complimented the aspirants on passing their examinations and completing extensive background checks.
Speaking on behalf of the Paterson Police Benevolent Association Local 1, the union that represents the City’s police officers was Executive Vice President Jose Torres who reminded the recruits of their “a sacred oath to protect and serve.”
Neighboring members of the Paterson City Council, the 4th Ward’s Ruby Cotton and the 5th Ward’s Luis Velez, celebrated the diversity of the new class of recruits. Both Cotton were proud to see six new women preparing for their future career in law enforcement with Velez adding that they “represent purity and integrity”
“We have the best police department in the state of New Jersey,” Velez said. “We do more with less.”
Also included in the 12 was Jael Torres, a graduate of Passaic Community Technical Institute who has already served as a military policeman for the Marines in Charleston, South Carolina. The former high school wrestler said he felt “great” about joining the force. Torres, 27, was accompanied by his girlfriend and mother, the latter stating, “I pray for, and call, my son every day and will continue to do so.”
Recruit Monae Clancy will temporarily lay aside the use of her favorite instrument to don protective police gear. The 24-year old Rosa Parks School of the Fine and Performing Arts graduate not only is an accomplished trombone player but also directs the marching band for John F. Kennedy High School.
“I always wanted to be a police officer but I waited until the right time and applied about a year ago,” Clancy recounted. “I love Paterson and I want to give back. I know there is darkness here, but I want to be a person of light.”
Accompanied by her mother, Terrence Grayson, and father, Maurice Clancy Sr., Monae said that growing up in one of Paterson’s most dangerous areas, near Hamilton and Godwin Streets, has actually proved to be helpful. She said that Councilwoman Cotton has served to be, “a role model for me.”
“I feel comfortable in the 4th Ward,” Monae stated. “I know the area, and I am not afraid. I think I can be of help there.”
Monae attended Montclair State University and presented her senior jazz recital in December 2018, which was held in the institution’s prestigious Chapin Hall (John J. Cali School of Music)-Leshowitz Recital Hall. The brass enthusiast also competed at Lincoln Center in the Duke Ellington annual competition at New York City’s Jazz House.
Monae said that the ceremony was “encouraging” and that she was pleasantly surprised to discover that one of the participants-Rev. Clayton-also is a trombone player.
The mayor concluded the pomp and circumstance by saying he looked forward to all candidates and their families returning in June for a graduation celebration.
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