• Joseph F. Berenato

NJSP celebrating 100th anniversary

Silipino: Origins rooted locally


Two 100th Anniversary Ford Interceptor troop cars, modeled after the black-and-white Ford Custom, flanked the town clock during Hammonton’s Independence Day Parade. (Courtesy Photo)

HAMMONTON—This year, the New Jersey State Police is celebrating its 100th anniversary.


Hammonton resident Andrew Silipino, a detective with the state police—and president and co-founder of the Troopers United Foundation—told The Gazette that the organization’s origins are deeply rooted in Hammonton.


“The state police, on December 5, 1921, started out on horseback and motorcycle on their first patrol from Trenton. Troop B was headquartered at the Imperial Hotel in Netcong and covered North Jersey with five substations. Troop A was headquartered at the Raleigh Hotel in Hammonton and covered South Jersey with substations in rented quarters at seven locations. There were stables on Pleasant Street, behind what is now Graycewyngs; those were the original stables where they kept their horses,” Silipino said.


Silipino said that the state police used a portion of the Raleigh Hotel as Troop A Headquarters from 1921 to 1939, after which the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) established Post 1026 there, naming it after Joseph Passalaqua, who was killed in World War I.

(Courtesy Photos)

Left: A mounted trooper sits atop his horse in Hammonton. Center: Members of the NJSP Mounted Unit and Ceremonial Color Guard, like this trooper seen at the Hammonton Independence Day parade, are wearing similar uniforms to those from 1921 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the New Jersey State Police. Right: The Raleigh Hotel, now the home to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Passalaqua Post 1026, served as the first headquarters for the New Jersey State Police in 1921.


To mark the centennial celebration, Silipino said that Troopers United Fund is working in conjunction with the State Police Memorial Association to host several events.


“We’re hosting a car show at division headquarters in West Trenton. That’s open to the public and free admission. It’ll feature classic cars, and our entire fleet is going to be out there—helicopters, our T.E.A.M.S. [Technical Emergency and Mission Specialists] vehicles. That should be a big community event ... The State Police Memorial Association is responsible for the maintaining of the State Police Museum and Learning Center and log cabin, which is on division headquarters grounds. That’s going to be an open-house at the car show; they’ll all be open to the public that day,” Silipino said.


Silipino said that an anniversary golf tournament will be held at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield.


“Baltusrol is a very prestigious golf course; it hosts U.S. Opens, the PGA championship. That’s going to be August 16,” Silipino said.


The founders of the Troopers United Foundation are (left to right) Shaun Clark, Eric Ayala, Andrew Silipino and Christopher Piligno. (Courtesy Photo)

Silipino deferred to Troopers United Foundation historian Jeffrey Bowman regarding additional anniversary events.


“The major event of the year will take place on October 2, at the 100th Anniversary Gala being held at the Hard Rock Casino in Atlantic City. This ‘black tie’ event will be the night troopers from all generations come together to share in fellowship, reflect on our history and honor those who have paid the ultimate price in service to the state,” Bowman said.


Bowman said that anniversary commemorations began in January of this year.


“Uniformed members began wearing a ‘hangar’ behind their nametags which depicts the years 1921-2021, and a triangle with ‘100 Years’ inside it. Historically, the uniform worn by troopers has always been conservative and free from excessive ornamentation. We felt this was a subtle way to outwardly acknowledge our century of service in our most forward-facing element, the uniformed trooper,” Bowman said.


Two dozen members, including Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, were even issued “throwback” uniforms.


“These uniforms are identical replicas to the uniforms worn by troopers from 1921 to 1929. Its distinctive navy blue top, olive breeches and brown leather were a source of constant imitation by local departments, which led to the change to the blue and gold color scheme we wear today,” Bowman said.


Additionally, the state police have introduced 10 “throwback” cars.


“Combining two generations of cars, the black and white paint scheme with a single red flashing light on the roof is a combination of the scheme used in Troop cars from the 1950s and 1960s. Careful attention was given to the triangle on the front doors of the retro car; members worked tirelessly to recreate the exact font and blue and gold colors that were painted by hand on the doors so many years ago,” Bowman said.


Several troopers can be seen next to their vehicles in Mullica Twp. in 1945. (Courtesy Photo)

Silipino noted that two of those vehicles were recently in Hammonton.


“At the Independence Parade, we had two of our 100th anniversary troop cars parked out front of the clock,” Silipino said.


Also, Bowman said, a proclamation was read at the State House complex on March 29 by Governor Phil Murphy.


“One hundred years ago on that day, the state police bill was signed into law,” Bowman said.


Bowman said that the anniversary logo itself has also been used to adorn marked state police vehicles, letterhead, social media platforms and in the latest recruiting campaign, and is depicted on a flag that is being flown at each state police road station, troop headquarters and at division headquarters.


Bowman also said that the official centennial merchandise—which includes apparel, challenge coins, pins, drinkware, commemorative prints, hero cards, an anniversary Winchester rifle and the 100th anniversary badge set—were all made possible “by the creative design and dedication of the Troopers United Foundation.”


“The Troopers United Foundation is a non-profit organization that aims to support Troopers and other first responders in times of tragedy. They accomplish this through fundraising efforts by selling merchandise that celebrates the unique culture of the state police. This year, they are working tirelessly as the official fundraising entity for the 100th anniversary. Troopers United Foundation is partnering with the State Police Memorial Association to make much-needed improvements to the museum at Division Headquarters, and to benefit their mission as a charity,” Bowman said.


Silipino said that the Troopers United Fund first came about after he made contact with a court clerk to have a warrant signed for a prisoner in 2014.


“She asked me if I could bring the paperwork to her house, since it was during the weekend to get it signed in lieu of a judge. The prisoner was locked up at the station and I went to her house, and she told me she was babysitting her grandson who was going in for surgery for brain cancer; he was only 4 years old at the time,” Silipino said.


Detective Andrew Silipino, of the New Jersey State Police, posed with Landon Sheppard at a demonstration in Sheppard’s honor. (Courtesy Photo)

The clerk said that her grandson, Landon Sheppard, wanted to be a state trooper.


“She said, ‘He loves seeing you guys pull over cars and always wants to see you guys. Would you mind talking to him while I go over this paperwork?’ I said absolutely. I brought him out to my troop car, I gave him my hat and let him play with the siren and the lights and everything. After that day, I couldn’t get him out of my mind,” Silipino said.


Silipino made requests through his chain of command for a presentation that they could do to lift Sheppard’s spirits as he underwent cancer treatment.


“We did a presentation where we landed the helicopter, we had the K-9 Unit, Arson and Bomb, Crime Scene Investigations, and the T.E.A.M.S. (Technical Emergency and Mission Specialists) unit rappelled from the helicopter. We gifted him a custom power wheels troop car around the holidays,” Silipino said.


After that, Silipino continued to do charity work with other troopers, and they started talking about doing such work regularly.


“We had five troopers die in the line of duty, two of which their wives were pregnant. That’s when we decided to raise some extra money for their wives. It was a huge success. At the end, we looked at all the money and said, ‘We think we’ve got something here where we can really do some good for the community and for first responders.’ That’s when we hired a lawyer and a CPA and made the non-profit,” Silipino said.


Silipino said that the Troopers United Foundation has been remarkably successful.


“Last year, we donated $107,000 to families of fallen troopers, as well as first responders—and their families—going through a tragedy or illness. We also had a lot of community outreach; we donated over 400,000 pounds to area food banks across the state, as well as cleaning and medical supplies to testing centers for COVID, and medical and senior centers that were reporting shortages in supplies. Last year was our busiest year,” Silipino said.


This year looks to be busy, as well, between the centennial celebration and a new project for Troopers United Fund involving VFW Post 1026.


“This year, the Troopers United Foundation established a partnership with the VFW, and aim to continue the storied history here, of service, fellowship and remembrance. We are hoping to begin renovating the property in the months to come,” Silipino said.


Silipino said that the partnership is a logical one between the two organizations.


“They have some struggles and some building issues, and Troopers United is getting bigger as a foundation. We have an online store that helps us raise money, so we need a shipping center and a place for our meetings and to host events, so we’re going to be working with the VFW to repair their property and their building to make it a nicer place for new members to come in for the VFW, as well as giving Troopers United a home in the very first headquarters for the New Jersey State Police,” Silipino said.


The shared history of both organizations, Silipino said, is an important one.


“My goal as the president of the foundation is to bring back those roots, help repair the VFW and make that a nice place for veterans as well as first responders and troopers to have a place that we can host events, do stuff for the community, rebuild a historical building and commemorate not only the history for the VFW but the New Jersey State Police. Both organizations have been there for a very long time,” Silipino said.


To learn more about Troopers United Fund or to purchase 100th anniversary commemorative items, visit troopersunited.org. To assist with the renovation of VFW Post 1026, contact Silipino at asilipino@troopersunited.org.