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Montgomery Township Mayor Swears in 5 New Police Officers

By Barbara A. Preston | January 20, 2022

Police Director Jim Gill introduced five candidates to Montgomery Township Committee on Thursday evening for approval to hire as probationary police officers. Committee members unanimously approved the officers. Included are: Two women, an Asian-American, and a Latino. The new hires will add diversity to the Montgomery police force.

Mayor Devra Kennan swore in the new police officers, who will begin work on Friday, January 21.

Montgomery Township Mayor Devra Keenan swearing in Kyle Chin (raised hand) who stands with his parents.

The Five New Montgomery Police Officers

Kyle Matthew Chin, 23, of Manalapan Township graduated from The College of New Jersey with a bachelor's degree in criminology in 2020. He also participated in the NJ ROTC program. He graduated from Colts Neck High School in 2016, and is certified in adult and pediatric first aid and CPR. He also did an internship with the New Jersey State Police in 2020. He has worked as a seasonal police officer for the resort town of Cape May City. Capt Gill noted that Chin is the youngest of the new recruits, but, "in his interviews, he projected as an older soul than he is. Very impressive." He is a Class II officer, which is a seasonal, part-time officer with limited capabilities. He will be attending the Cape May Police Academy again to earn his full credentials.

Michael Contreras, 24, resides in East Brunswick. He earned a bachelor's degree in sociology with minors in communications and criminology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. He has worked at PSE&G as a safety watcher. He is also a fully-trained officer and a Cape May Police Academy graduate.

Joelle Bridgewater, 26, is from Jackson Township. She earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice with a minor in sociology from Rutgers University. She has worked for the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office as an agent in the computer crimes bureau. She will be attending the Cape May Police Academy. Her father, Joel Bridgewater, is a retired New York City detective.

Montgomery's newest police officers. From left: Kyle Chin, Joelle Bridgewater, Carolyn LaRue, Craig Merkle, and Michael Contreras. (Photo courtesy of the Montgomery Township Police Department.)

Carolyn LaRue, 29, is from Somerset. She earned a bachelor's degree in psychology with a minor in criminology from Rutgers University in 2016. She had worked as a mental health technician at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and then as a claims investigator for the Greater New York Insurance company. She is working on a master's degree in criminal justice at St. Joseph's University. She will be attending the Cape May Police Academy

Craig Merkle, 24, resides in Nutley. He earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from Montclair State University in 2021. He also played NCAA football for four years. He graduated from the Cape May County Police Academy in 2021 as a Class II Officer. He has worked as a seasonal police officer for the resort town of North Wildwood since July, 2021. He will be attending the field officer program at the Cape May Police Academy to earn his full credentials. His older brother is also a police officer in Somerset County.

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Capt Gill gave a summary of the hiring process. "We accepted 218 resumes for the five positions," he said, noting that his command staff review each one.

From there, Gill conducted more than 80 interviews to narrow down the field. Next, came a physical fitness assessment and a second round of interviews that resulted in the top five candidates. Township committee members participated in the interviews.

"Hopefully our new officers will continue working for Montgomery Township for the next 30 years," Gill said. "It's not just how they scored on the fitness test, or the numbers they earned on the written test. It's about how they are going to fit in our community."

Once the new officers complete the Cape May Police Academy program, they will enter the Montgomery Township Police Department's four-month program. Each officer will ride with a different training officer for a month at a time. The mentor officers will teach the new officers about how and what Montgomery police officers do.


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