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  • Writer's pictureJoseph F. Berenato

Retiring officers honored

On February 28, Hammonton Police Chief Kevin Friel (left) presented Sgt. Christopher Clements with a plaque in appreciation of his 21 years of service. (THG/Joseph F. Berenato. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—Two retirees from the Hammonton Police Department were honored at the regular meeting of town council held on February 28 in town hall.

“They’ve provided their time of service here in our community, in our police force, and are retiring to move on to the next chapters of their life. Cumulatively, between the two of them, we have about half a century’s worth of experience. That’s the one thing, besides losing family members—because we here at the department are all brothers and sisters; we spend more time together than we do, probably, with our own families, and we see each other sometimes, more than our families,” said Hammonton Police Chief Kevin Friel.

The first officer Friel recognized was Sgt. Christopher Clements, who began his career with the Department of Corrections before joining the Hammonton Police Department in 2000. Friel spoke of Clements’ tenacity, noting that it was evident while Clements attended the police academy with three other individuals.

“In the first part of the academy, this person hurt their ankle to the point of—I mean really hurt their ankle—and instead of bowing out, because they didn’t want to lose their place in it, every day was taping that ankle up to make his makeshift cast to get through the academy. I mean, this is a man that later on needed corrective surgery on that ankle but had the tenacity and drive to fight through and make it through that academy so that he could graduate and be a police officer here,” Friel said.

Friel said that Clements’ dedication continued throughout his career.

“He was a driving force in our night shift. He was on our bike patrol and served with us from 2000 to 2022. I am lucky to say that, when I became chief in 2019, of the two promotions I made, he was one of those two promotions—to the promotion to the rank of sergeant,” Friel said.

Friel called Clements to the podium and presented him with a plaque.

“On behalf of the police department and the town of Hammonton, we would like to thank you in recognition of your 21 years of service here with the town of Hammonton—cumulatively you have 25 in the pension system—and I can’t thank you enough. I’m going to miss you, my brother, and I know you’re always going to be close by,” Friel said.

Clements then took to the podium. In addition to thanking the mayor, council and Friel for the recognition he also thanked his family “for all their support all these years.”

“Without them, I probably wouldn’t be standing here at this podium, speaking to you guys tonight. To my co-workers, past and present: thanks for having my back all these years, allowing me to go home safe to my family. You guys will continue to be in my prayers. Thank you,” Clements said.

Det. Peter Hagerty (right) received a plaque for his 16 years of service from Hammonton Police Chief Kevin Friel. (THG/Joseph F. Berenato. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

Friel then recognized Det. Peter Hagerty, who was a police officer at Stockton University before being hired as a lateral transfer in 2005.

“Det. Hagerty came to us and was a member of our county ERT, was our range master, was a man who helped keep our own emergency response team lucid and together, prepared to help the community if the instance ever arose where there was a hazard that we had to send guys in, armed,” Friel said.

Friel said that Hagerty’s prowess extended beyond the physical.

“He also stepped in when we migrated to new software programs for our police agency. He stepped forward with information technology skills. He became our radio guy; he became our computer man, and anytime that something wasn’t doing what it should be doing, Det. Hagerty was the one that they called. He did an awesome job,” Friel said.

Friel said that Hagerty is going to be greatly missed.

“I certainly am happy for him to be able to move on to his next chapter in life ... In recognition of your 16 years of dedicated service to the town of Hammonton and the Hammonton Police Department, we’d like to present you with a token of recognition,” Friel said.

Hagerty offered brief remarks in appreciation.

“First, I want to thank council. The last couple years, obviously, have been a little rough. To my guys in the back, I love you all. The ones that aren’t here, I love you. The next chapter’s coming up, so thank you,” Hagerty said.

Following the recognition of the retirees, Friel presented the report from the Law and Order Committee, noting that the department has been conducting “a lot of DWI motor vehicle stops.”

“I’d like to remind people that I know that everyone is over 21, likes to go out and have a beverage or two, but we want to remind people to drive safely as we have, in March, the holiday of St. Patrick’s Day. I want to remind people to either—please—have a designated driver, call an Uber, Lyft or phone a friend at home, but please do not drive. The life you save is certainly going to be yours and hopefully others by staying and making sure that you’re not behind that wheel,” Friel said.

Friel also said that the month of March is National Vehicle Recall Month. He reminded residents that they are able to enter their vehicle identification number (VIN) in the websites of either their vehicle’s manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to check for safety recalls.

“They would be done free of charge; that is a federal law. Also, if you do it through your vehicle manufacturer, you may find that there are some customer satisfaction initiatives there that don’t escalate to a safety recall, but things that people are having problems with that make or model vehicle, and those are normally repaired by the vehicle manufacturer free of charge, as well,” Friel said.

Friel also spoke about the N.J. Safe Passing Law, which was passed in August of 2021.

“The estoppel period is over and it goes into effect, the Move Over law for pedestrians and cyclists. If there are bicyclists or pedestrians along the side of the roadway—obviously, if there’s no sidewalk, the pedestrians might be on the side of the roadway—you are obligated, when possible, to shift over your lane of travel to give a wide berth for those individuals to help increase our safety. Knock wood, we have been doing well the past couple months with no more fatalities, and I would love to keep it that way for the rest of the months of the year 2022,” Friel said.

Later in the meeting, council held the second public reading of two ordinances related to police matters.

The first was Ordinance No. 005-2022 – Amend Chapter 51-1 D Composition of Police of Department. According to the ordinance, Chapter 51-1 D is “amended as follows: Five Sergeants, who shall have the duties as prescribed by the Chief of Police, the ordinances of the town of Hammonton and by the statutes of the State of New Jersey.”

“The remaining portions of chapter 51-1 shall remain in full force and effect,” the ordinance states.

The second was Ordinance No. 006-2022 – Police Chaplain Program. According to the ordinance, the duties of police chaplain shall include, but not be limited to assisting the Hammonton Police Department in “death notifications, station house adjustments and any other duties that may be assigned by the chief of police.”

“All applicants for the position of chaplain shall be reviewed by the chief of police, senior police chaplain and chaplain liaison to determine his/her qualifications in accordance with this ordinance and shall make recommendations to the mayor and council regarding the appointment as chaplain. The mayor shall appoint chaplains in accordance with this ordinance with the advice and consent of town council,” the ordinance states.

“This is a voluntary, donated position with no salary,” Mayor Stephen DiDonato said.

Both ordinances were adopted and published. The next meeting of town council is scheduled for March 28 at 7 p.m.


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