Sgt. Alex Barrios and Officer Patrick Corless were given medals for their actions on Aug. 7, when they responded to a person allegedly stabbing a victim. After exhausting all other non-lethal means of stopping the assailant, the men discharged their service weapons, fatally wounding the suspect. For their actions, The Hudson County Chiefs of Police Association awarded Barrios and Corless with its highest honor.
“Sgt. Barrios and Officer Corless were confronted with an exceptional situation involving life-threatening circumstances, during which these officers risked their lives and performed above and beyond the call of duty,” the plaque for both men reads. “Their brave and life-saving actions were within the finest traditions of police service.”
“I'm very proud that as part of the Association, we were able to bestow this upon our personnel today,” said North Bergen Police Chief Robert Dowd.
Corless also was promoted to sergeant during the ceremony.
Officials also promoted Gregory Costanza and Jason Appello as the newest sergeants for the department.
Costanza, a 17-year NBPD veteran, has worked in the patrol division for most of his career. The department recently assigned him to work in its traffic unit.
Appello is a 10-year veteran for the department, having worked on patrol and in the Detective Bureau.
Corless has worked in the department's investigative unit. Until recently, he was also on loan to the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office, until Chief Dowd asked for his return. Sgt. Barrios was actually training him when they encountered the stabbing suspect, Dowd said.
“We’re lucky to have you here,” Public Safety Commissioner Allen Pascual told the men. “I know all these gentlemen. I know you'll do a great job. You have great mentorship.”
In another ceremony at Town Hall Dec. 20, the NBPD swore in nine new officers to the department. Six of the officers are headed to the Passaic County Police Academy in Passaic, N.J. next month for five months of training.
They will later undergo NBPD in-house and field training, and are expected to start working the local town beat by summer 2018, according to Dowd.
Three other new officers have already graduated from Passaic. Therefore, they will just train with North Bergen police before hitting the streets.
The nine officers are: Joshua Nazario, Jose Villalta, Kayla Muniz, Jeffrey Vega, Matthew Appell, Samantha Sexton, Kevin Barrios, Lazaro Rivero, and Brendan Bowen.
“It’s something I’ve been looking forward to doing for a very long time,” said Nazario, 27, after the ceremony. “Now it’s actually going to happen and it feels amazing. I’m the first one doing it in my family.”
Nazario’s parents and brother were present for his swearing-in. He is one of the officers headed to the Passaic Academy.
“I’m extremely proud,” his mother said.
Muniz, 24, has a sister in the department as well. “I’ve always wanted to be an officer,” she said. Muniz is headed to the academy alongside Nazario.
Rivero, 27, formerly served in the Newark Police Department, but chose to transfer to North Bergen police because of his roots in the town. He also has a brother who has worked for the department for around 13 years.
Unlike Nazario and Muniz, he has already completed academy training. “Just to be part of this department…I’ve always wanted to be a police officer in North Bergen,” Rivero said. “I grew up here, this is my hometown. I lived uptown, and I lived downtown. It’s going to be so real. Just learning what I learned in Newark.”
Dowd warned the families of the grads (and soon to be grads) of the challenges ahead. “You’re going to play a big role in this,” he said. “Especially for the officers going to the academy. They’re going to need your support; they’re going to need your help. I’m not embarrassed to say that 24 years ago I never would’ve made it through the academy if my mom didn’t make my lunch every day, and my dad didn’t bring my uniforms to the dry cleaners every day. Because you come home absolutely exhausted. All these little things, you’re going to have to do.”
Hannington Dia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org