By Brooke Migdon |
LONG BRANCH – Not many high school students graduate with a job in the career field of their choice. But 12 ambitious Monmouth County residents are now class one special police officers thanks to a select training program offered through the Monmouth County Vocational School District’s Academy of Law and Public Safety (ALPS).
ALPS is a two-year program for high school juniors and seniors interested in criminal justice. Students complete their high school studies in math, science, English and history while pursuing a law enforcement curriculum that includes forensic field experiences and projects in such subjects as identifying fingerprints and hair and fiber analysis.
This year, ALPS offered a Class One Special Law Enforcement Officer (SLEO) training program in conjunction with the Monmouth County Police Academy, allowing students to receive hands-on instruction from leaders in law enforcement from both ALPS and the police academy.
After submitting an application and completing a series of interviews, the 12 students accepted into the program underwent nine 6-hour days of special law enforcement training – a total of 54 hours.
SLEO students received training identical to that of those enrolled in the police academy. Upon completion of the course, students were awarded a class one SLEO certification, affording them the opportunity to apply for and potentially receive a job as a class one special officer. All 12 students who completed the program received offers of employment upon graduation, said ALPS’ principal Joseph Diver.
“We got the same training that we would have received anywhere as a class one, but we got it as high school seniors, which is amazing,” said Joseph Strohmenger, a native of Howell and a class one officer in Bradley Beach. “Because of that program, I was able to start working the very next day after I graduated.”
SLEOs are largely utilized during the summer season to maintain public safety in high traffic areas, enforce parking and municipal ordinances, and build relationships with the public they aim to serve and protect.
Class One officers in the state of New Jersey generally make an hourly wage of $10 per hour, according to former Tinton Falls Lieutenant and ALPS instructor, Scott MacDonald.
“The position is simply a stepping stone on to bigger and better things. They get valuable training and experience that can lead to jobs as Special Two officers, where the pay is between $15 and $18 an hour, and of course as full-time police officers where salaries start between $35,000 and $40,000,” MacDonald said.
2017 ALSP graduate and SLEO certified Dylan Voll of Neptune, who currently works as a class one special officer with the Avon-By-The-Sea Police Department, said his job mainly entails establishing a relationship with the members of the community in which he works.
“It’s more about being a people person than being a stickler for the rules,” he said.
Strohmenger gave a similar account of his own position.
“You learn very fast here that it’s a very hands-on job and very community-oriented. You’re going to be out there interacting with people nonstop,” he said.
Topics addressed through the SLEO course, including cultural diversity, morals and ethics, and handling public disputes and disturbances, better prepare students to interact with the public.
“I absolutely love speaking with them (the community) now, getting to know what they’re into and letting them know the police are here to help them,” Strohmenger said.
Additional training included motor vehicle and traffic laws, radio communication, arrests, and handcuffing and baton techniques.
Graduates of the SLEO program at ALPS left with not only a certificate, but a professional skill set that the average high school senior does not possess.
“Most people are in their 20s that just started working with me,” Voll, 18, said. “I feel like I’m more advanced because I got into the game before anyone else.”
On the whole, ALPS graduates leave the school with more exposure to law enforcement than most others. According to Diver, a large majority of ALPS students complete internships with local police departments before graduating, allowing students to gain experience and additional hands-on training in the field.
“It strengthened my idea that I wanted to be a police officer,” Strohmenger said about his internship with the Hazlet Township Police Department. “It was an excellent opportunity that you wouldn’t get anywhere else.”
Although Middletown resident Mason Sheehan, a 2016 ALPS graduate and a class one special officer in Red Bank, left the school before the SLEO course was offered there, he credits his ALPS education for better preparing him for his SLEO training at the police academy, as well as his job as an officer.
“I got a background in criminal law and tactics like handcuffing and radio communication, which are huge,” he said. “When I got to the academy, I kind of already knew what I was doing because of ALPS.”
The Academy of Law and Public Safety is now in its fifth consecutive year as a full-time, two-year program within the Monmouth County Vocational School District.
This article was first published in the Aug. 24-31, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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