FAIRFIELD, NJ — In a room packed with family and friends, Fairfield police sergeants Brian Sabatelli, Robert Sanger, Ralph “RJ” Casendino and Steven Ptaszynski and Class II Special Law Enforcement Officer (SLEO 2) Patrick Reynolds were officially sworn into their new positions by Mayor James Gasparini during a special ceremony held on Monday night.
Fairfield Police Chief Anthony Manna stated that Monday’s ceremony marked “another landmark day” for the Fairfield Police Department (FPD) “with the swearing in of one new class II special police officer and the promotion of four new sergeants.”
“As always, I thank the mayor, council members and the administrator, who continue to support the police department in so many ways, but mostly by assuring that the department’s staffing levels are maintained and that vacancies in the table of organization are filled as soon as possible,” said Manna.
The chief also commended his officers and civilian staff, stating that they “go above and beyond.” He added that his officers not only protect the town, but are also part of the community.
“We do what others only talk about,” said Manna. “Our work in community events and charitable causes sets us apart from other police departments.”
Manna introduced the officers prior to swearing them into their new positions as follows:
Sgt. Sabatelli began his career with the FPD as a dispatcher in September 2004 and became a Fairfield police officer in June 2005, according to Manna. For the last 18 months, Sabatelli has been assigned to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force Group 1.
During his tenure with the DEA, his task force group was commended twice by the New Jersey Narcotics Enforcement Officers Association. In 2018, the group was commended for an investigation that targeted heroin traffickers, which resulted in numerous arrests and the seizure of a variety of weapons and drugs.
According to Manna, the investigation ultimately led to drug suppliers in both the Dominican Republic and Mexico and also resulted in the arrest of ranking members of a drug cartel. In 2018, Sabatelli’s group was presented with the Guns, Gangs and Drugs Law Enforcement Award.
While with the FPD, Sabatelli received four unit citations, a criminal apprehension award and an honorable service citation. He is a former department Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) officer and is a current firearms instructor and armorer.
The sergeant holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Mary Washington College in Virginia and a master’s degree in human resources training and development from Seton Hall University.
Sabatelli and his wife, Jackie, who is a former Fairfield police dispatcher and current Ramsey police detective, have two children, Gabby and Brayden. Sabatelli is now assigned to the patrol division as a squad supervisor.
Sgt. Sanger, who began his law enforcement career in 1994 with the North Bergen Police Department, joined the FPD on Feb. 14, 2000 and has been assigned to the investigative division for the last seven years.
According to Manna, Sanger is a founding member of the department’s honor guard, a current Police Training Commission-certified academy instructor and the department’s accreditation manager. Manna stated that Sanger was instrumental in the department receiving its initial accreditation certificate from the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police in 2007 and each of the three re-accreditation cycles that followed.
“Perhaps his greatest contribution as far as a legacy goes is the work he has done in organizing the department’s participation in the annual New Jersey Special Olympics Plane Pull held at Newark Airport,” said Manna. “Due mostly to his efforts, for the last 19 years, the department has raised approximately $125,000 to benefit this worthy charity.
“Almost every year, Sanger and some department friends always have assured that Fairfield was the top fundraising department for this event. I know that Sanger is most proud that in 2018, the department captured first place in all three categories: fastest pull time, fastest pull time with lowest combined weight and, most importantly, the top fundraiser.”
During his tenure in Fairfield, Sanger received three unit citations and two exceptional service awards. He holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Pratt Institute in New York and a master’s degree in human resources training and development from Seton Hall University. He is married to his wife, Michelle.
Sgt. Casendino began his Fairfield career in August 2005 as a police dispatcher and became an officer in March 2007. During his tenure, he was a member of the Essex/Union Auto Theft Task Force, a drug-recognition expert and an emergency medical technician.
Most recently, Casendino served as Fairfield’s representative to the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) Local #81, but had to resign due to his promotion. According to Manna, he still serves as treasurer for the PBA.
“Casendino is currently assigned to the administrative division, where he has been the catalyst for the establishment and success of the Fairfield Police Foundation, a recognized 501©3 charity whose board of directors helps to support the police department with equipment and training outside of the funding found in the municipal budget,” said Manna. “As the department’s liaison to the foundation, he has helped to raise the department’s positive image within the community with many residents, businesses and civic organizations.”
The sergeant has been commended with five lifesaving awards, seven unit citations, one honorable service award, two exceptional service awards, two drug apprehension awards and one criminal apprehension award during his career. In 2019, he received the Essex County Crime Prevention Officers Association Officer of the Year Award.
Casendino and his wife, Dawn, have three children: Cameron, Brianna and Brendan. He will continue his assignment in the administrative division.
Sgt. Ptaszynski began his law enforcement career with the Morris County Sheriff’s Office and Bureau of Corrections in October 2007 and joined the FPD in September 2008.
In addition to recently being assigned to the patrol division in the special enforcement unit, Ptaszynski also currently serves an emergency medical technician with certifications in CPR, Narcan use, stop the bleed and de-escalation. He is also a Police Training Commission-certified instructor as well as a drug-recognition expert, field-training officer and one of the department’s terminal agency coordinators.
Manna explained that during Ptaszynski’s tenure, he has received six unit citations, a narcotics arrest citation and a lifesaving award. He also has been recognized by the State of New Jersey as a top 2010 Top Gun Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) Enforcement Award recipient and also received a 2012 Law Enforcement Distinguished Service Award from Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Ptaszynski holds a bachelor’s degree in behavioral sciences from Drew University and is married to his wife, Jennifer. According to the chief, he will be assigned to the patrol division as a squad supervisor.
Officer Reynolds began his law enforcement career with the Essex County Sheriff’s Department as a deputy sheriff after graduating from the Essex County Police Academy in 2018. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a minor in psychology from Marist College and is currently working on a master’s degree in national security studies. He is a certified emergency medical technician and CPR instructor.
Manna and Gasparini both stated that filling the positions was a “tough decision” because there were nine very intelligent and qualified people who applied. Manna also explained that three of the four sergeant positions were open due to retirements.
Despite their absence from the meeting, Council President Joseph Cifelli and Councilman Thomas Morgan joined their colleagues in sending words of congratulations.
The next regular council meeting will be held on Monday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m.