New Center will welcome first public safety officer trainees from three Hudson County municipalities on January 15
Jersey City, NJ—Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise headlined a group of county and municipal officials on hand to cut the ribbon on the County’s new Public Safety Training Center in Secaucus at a ceremony held on Tuesday morning. On hand were County Board of Commissioners Chairman Anthony Vainieri, Board of Commissioners Vice Chair Anthony Romano, Hudson County Sheriff Frank Schillari, Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonelli and representatives from the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, Jersey City Police Department, and North Bergen Police Department.
The new Public Safety Training Center was formerly home to the the county’s juvenile detention center. But after years of juvenile justice reform, the handful of serious youth offenders remainingt in the County did not justify the detention center’s continued operation. Those handful of serious  offenders are now housed with Essex County. The empty detention center  building, with it’s many classrooms, ample meeting and instructional areas, made sense as the site for a local public safety training center for Hudson County, which has not had an in-county option for municipal police, sheriff’s officer, corrections officer or prosecutor’s office personnel to attend for training for many years.
After a $2.5 milloin renovation, and certification from the State of New Jersey, the Center is ready to carry out that mission, beginning welcoming its first new class on January 15th. At total of 35 officer candidates from Bayonne, Jersey City, Harrsion and the County Sheriff’s Office will comprise the class. (That number may rise depending on COVID19-related restrictions.) They will be trained by a permanent staff of five, supplemented by law enforcement training instructors from various law enforcement agencies and police departments in the County. The instructional team will be led by the Center’s Director, Mark Miller, a 26 year veteran of the JCPD who retired with the rank of Deputy Chief. Miller served as both an in-service trainer and new recruit trainer while on the Jersey City force.
The new Training Center will use facilities throughout Hudson County, including the North Bergen Police Department’s firing range for weapons training, and plans to offer cutting edge, computer-assisted instructional methods like other facilities of its kind around the state. However the Center’s educational approach will be different in one way: right from the first class, the Hudson County Public Safety Training Center will place significant emphasis on community engagement as part of an officer candidate’s understanding of their new job.
That direction comes from an executive order signed by County Executive DeGise in June, mandating the creation of a diversity and de-escalation training course for law enforcement officers who are trained by the Hudson County Center. It was prompted by the civil unrest related to police-community relations that was so much in the headlines during the Spring and Summer of 2020.
The County Executive touched on that in his remarks at the ribbon cutting this morning.
“This place was, for a long time, a place of punishment for kids who took a wrong turn,” said County Executive DeGise, referring to the site’s former role as a juvenile detention center. “But now I’m glad to say, that as we move away from that more punitive approach to criminal justice toward one focused on engaging our communities in the work of violence de-escalation, this Public Safety Training Center will be at the forefront of that work.”
In addition to saving on travel time and costs, a local, in-county public safety training center will allow Hudson municipalities to cease paying other counties to train their officer candidates.
While there is no set timetable, County officials anticipate that the Center will grow in scope over time to allow the training of other public safety-related students in the future outside of law enforcement. For now, Director Miller made clear in his remarks that the first phase of the new Center’s operation will be an exciting one.
“We’re excited to get to work and thankful for the support of County Executive DeGise, The Board of Commissioners, and our law enforcement leadership community in Hudson County,” said Miller. “We are looking forward to providing the kind of quality instruction and training that will ensure that our graduates are absolutely ready to face the challenges that await them as they go about their work protecting and serving our community.”