WEST CALDWELL, NJ — Council chambers was standing room only during Tuesday’s West Caldwell Township Council meeting as family, friends, residents and West Caldwell police supported the swearing in of Paul G. Velardi and Justin D. Ritter as probationary police officers.

As Mayor Joseph Tempesta delivered the Oath of Office to the new members of the West Caldwell Police Department (WCPD), he also introduced each officer to the community and congratulated them both on behalf of the governing body. 

“You are joining a great force; and on behalf of the governing body, I wish you nothing but success,” he said. “Most importantly, may God watch over you and return you home safely to your family each and every shift.”

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Velardi, whose appointment became effective on March 4, received an associate degree in criminal justice from Passaic County Community College and graduated as an alternate-route candidate from the Passaic County Police Academy in September. He has also served as a volunteer for the Wayne First Aid Squad.

Velardi comes from a family steeped in service as first responders. His siblings, both members of the New York City Fire Department, are currently employed as a firefighter and an emergency medical technician (EMT).

Ritter, a resident of Rutherford, is a 2014 graduate of Fairlawn High School and received an associate degree in 2016 from Bergen Community College in Exercise Science. He is projected to graduate Montclair State University in December of 2020 and will graduate from the Passaic Police Academy on March 19.  On March 20, he will begin his career with the WCPD.

Ritter’s mother and stepfather are both retired employees of the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office, while his brother is a member of the Rutherford Police Department.

Officer in Charge Cpt. Dennis Capriglione, Jr. thanked the mayor and council for their support in agreeing to fill the ranks. He noted that there was “zero hesitation” from the governing body last month when he asked to hire two officers in place of recently retired Chief Gerard Paris and Cpl. David Vanderclock.

Capriglione welcomed the new officers, noting that the level of support for new officers was evidenced by the number of police officers present for the swearing in ceremony. 

“[You’re] joining an excellent police department if not the best in the area,” he said. “I like to say we are the best in the area.”

He apprised the new officers that they will be “teamed up with field-training officers for the next three months” who will teach them the ropes. As much as the officers have learned in the academy, Capriglione stated that it will be the days spent in the streets with the police officers who have years of experience that the new members will “learn those things that will save [their] lives.”