SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ – Mayor Al Smith and the Scotch Plains Township Council honored two retiring police officers and two officers who have recently been promoted during the governing body's meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019.
Captain Jeff Briel introduced the retiring officers, Sgt. Jim Scannell and Officer Chris Aversa, and the two recently promoted officers, Sgt. Joe Citarella and Lt. Michael Tardi.
Sgt. Jim Scannell was a graduate of Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School and was hired following his service in the US Air Force. He was assigned to the patrol division following his graduation from the John H. Stamler Police Academy. Later, he later became the technology expert for the SPPD and helped implement the department's dispatching and reporting computer system, including mobile computers that allow officers to complete various police reports from a patrol car, which aided officer efficiency. In 2000, he was assigned to the Union County High Tech Task Force as a founding member to investigate and gather digital-related evidence for incidents occurring in Scotch Plains and throughout the County.
After being called to active duty following the events of 9/11, Sgt. Scannell was reassigned to the detective bureau. He also provided numerous presentations to students, parents and community groups on a variety of computer-related issues that adversely impact users' wellbeing. In 2007, he again helped implement the SPPD's new computer dispatching and reporting system and has managed the department's network and hardware. His work saved an estimated one million dollars for the department and the township. He also attended the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and National White Collar Crime Center to broaden his cyber-related knowledge. For the past few years, he has been a member of the department's rifle team.
"During my entire career, I have lived in the same community I served and am grateful for the tremendous support my beautiful wife and daughter have provided," Sgt. Scannell said in a statement read at the Council meeting. "I am fortunate for the opportunity to have worked with the men and women of the Scotch Plains Police Department and to have had the honor to serve the people of Scotch Plains.
Officer Christopher Aversa is a lifelong resident of Scotch Plains and graduated from Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School in 1988 and later reserved his Associate's Degree from Union County College. He began his law enforcement career with the NJ Department of Corrections in 1993 and two years later was hired as a Sheriff's Officer and later appointed to the K9 unit.
After 9/11 he worked with his K9 partner at the World Trade Center and was awarded the WTC Commendation Bar by the NYC Police Commissioner. He has served as a member of the Union County SWAT team for 15 years and is an FBI-trained hostage negotiator.
In 2008, Officer Aversa fulfilled a lifelong ambition to become a member of his hometown police department and subsequently started the SPPD's first K9 unit with Officer Brian Cheney. More recently, he was given the assignment as the first School Resource Officer (SRO) at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School. It was a position he loved because it enabled him to interact, protect and be a good role model for the students.
Officer Aversa has been a recipient of the SPPD's Life Saving Award, the 2014 NJ Law Enforcement Officers' Valor Award and the 2014 Father Nelligan Award from St. Bart's Church. He also was a head coach for the PAL football for eight years and has built friendships that will last a lifetime through football.
"As a kid who ran around this town causing trouble, I really have lived the dream. I've gotten to do what I wanted to do and not everyone can say that," Officer Aversa said. "I wouldn't be here today without my wife. I never had to look back to know she was standing behind me."
"We took the lead in (putting a police officer in the high school) following the Parkland tragedy. Chris has been exemplary in his role as the first SRO at the high school," Mayor Smith noted. "I hope that everyone who follows in that role will live up to his good standard."
Sgt. Joseph Citarella is a 2005 graduate of the John H. Stamler Police Academy. He has worked in the patrol division since that time. In 2010, he was awarded the Meritorious Service Award in 2010 for physically subduing an individual armed with a large hunting knife who had threatened and attacked him. He also has been acknowledged for several other incidents during his career.
In attendance are his wife, Deborah, his four children, Rebecca Sarah, Hannah, and Josh, along with his parents, in-laws and siblings. Officer Citarella’s father, Mike, was in attendance is a retired Newark police officer.
"I want to thank everyone in the police department that I worked with for the past 15 years, they've all been great. And thank you to the Township," Sgt. Citarella said.
Lt. Michael Tardi moved to Scotch Plains in 1979 and graduated from SPFHS in 1992. He earned an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Union County College and also attended John Jay College of Criminal Justice for two years. He was hired by the SPPD in 1996 and was detailed to the Auto Theft Task Force. He has held multiple offices in the PBA and in 2008 was promoted to Sgt. He is also an instructor at the Stamler Police Academy for the Police.
"I'd like to thank my wife for basically putting up with me for the past 22 years. It's been hard for both of us. I worked overnights for 17-18 years... It's not easy for my family," Lt. Tardi said. "I want to thank the Council and the guys I work with for being there and working together."