Nine North Bergen Police Department officers were promoted at a ceremony inside town hall chambers on Wednesday, September 21. Mayor Nicholas Sacco and Public Safety Commissioner Allen Pascual presided over the oath of office.
Jason Appello, a 15-year veteran of the NBPD, was promoted to lieutenant where he will command a squad in the patrol division. Appello attended Queen of Peace High School and graduated from Seton Hall University with a bachelor’s degree.
Gary Lowman, a 28-year NBPD veteran, was appointed as the first corporal in North Bergen’s history. Lowman has worked in the Street Crimes and Community Policing unit and spent the large portion of his career as a training officer for the patrol division, receiving numerous awards and commendations.
Lowman was assigned to the Detective Bureau in 2014, promoted to the rank of detective in 2016, and assigned to the Bureau of Criminal Identification. With his new and historic position, Lowman will continue his role in the BCI.
Anthony Ortiz, a lifelong resident of North Bergen and 20-year veteran of the NBPD, was promoted to the rank of sergeant. Ortiz served as Vice President of PBA Local 18 and is the only Nationally Certified School Resource Officer in the county.
Having been Officer of the Month twice, Ortiz’s most notable arrest was made when he investigated a student who was taking significant steps to plan and carry out a school shooting several years ago. The investigation and arrest prevented the juvenile from carrying out his actions as planned.
Five other officers promoted
Andrew Mejia, a 14-year veteran of the NBPD, was promoted to rank of detective. Mejia was hired to Hudson County Corrections in 2007 and joined the NBPD in 2008. He was assigned to the Traffic Division in 2015 and has been a certified motorcycle operator, serious MV accident investigator, and SRO.
Samantha Sexton, a lifelong resident of North Bergen and five-year veteran of the NBPD, attended North Bergen High School and has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. She assisted the Spring Valley Police Department in New York in the apprehension of two homicide suspects in North Bergen in 2019. Sexton received the Outstanding Law Enforcement Award from NJ Sex Crimes Officers Association for the investigation of a stranger rape in 2020.
Bryan Suarez, a seven-year veteran of the NBPD and one of the social media coordinators for the department, attended NBHS and has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Suarez has been awarded Officer of the Month twice and is a two-time recipient of the Mothers Against Drunk Driving Award. He is a motor vehicle accident investigator, EVOC and Radar Instructor, and one of the few recognized drug recognition experts in the State.
Feliz Vargas is a seven-year veteran of the department and completed six years of service in the U.S. Navy before moving to North Bergen. He is currently an investigator with the Detective Bureau assigned to the Patrol Division.
Michael Whalen, a seven-year veteran of the department, attended NBHS and has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Prior to becoming a North Bergen Police Officer, Whalen interned for the NBPD and was assigned to the Detective Bureau as a silver shield investigator where he received an Outstanding Law Enforcement Service Award in 2020 for the investigation and arrest of a suspect in a rape case.
Police Chief Peter Fasilis was master of ceremonies at the swearing-in. Pastor Paul Haviland performed the invocation and benediction. Also in attendance were members of the officers’ families, along with representatives from the township administration and the police department.
NHRFR Firefighters promoted too
Meanwhile, North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue (NHRFR) promoted four firefighters, including a new department chief. The ceremony was held in Waterside Restaurant on Tuesday, September 20.
Deputy Chief David Donnarumma was promoted to the rank of Chief of the department. Donnarumma takes over for Acting Chief Michael Falco, who assumed the role after Chief Frank Montagne retired in February of this year. Additionally, Captain Glen Gavin was promoted to the rank of Battalion Chief. Firefighters Gary Colombo and Kevin Todd were also both promoted to the rank of Captain.
Chief Donnarumma joined the organization in 1992 and worked his way up the ranks, eventually becoming a Battalion Chief in 2007 and a Deputy Chief in 2012. He attended North Bergen High School and graduated from New Jersey City University. Chief Donnarumma’s brother Michael served in the Department for 32 years before recently retiring and achieving the rank of Fire Captain.
Mayor Sacco attended the event and Revenue along with Finance Commissioner Julio Marenco to support the promoted firefighters. The NHRFR provides fire coverage for North Bergen, as well as Union City, Weehawken, West New York, and Guttenberg.
Also in attendance were Weehawken Mayor and Chairman of NHRFR’s Management Committee Richard Turner. West New York Mayor Gabriel Rodgriguez, NHRFR board members John Haberman, Anthony Vainieri, Martin Martinetti, Jose Munoz, and Co-Executive Directors Jeff Welz and Michael DeOrio, as well as proud family members of the four firefighters.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.