Mercer County Correction Officers Complete Special Operations TrainingFull size photo

Mercer County Correction Officers Complete Special Operations Training

MEDIA CONTACT:  Julie Willmot
(609) 278-7137

TRENTON, N.J. - An elite team of personnel from the Mercer County Correction Center recently completed an intensive 8-day program in tactical training for corrections officers. The Master Level program will enable the 14-member Mercer Emergency Response Team, or MERT, to, in turn, train teams of officers at the Correction Center.

Following a morning workout where officers learned physical maneuver techniques to quiet or subdue an inmate, Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes lauded the team for their participation and dedication, and recognized the challenges corrections officers face each day on the job. “Even in just the past 10 or 20 years, the type of individual detained in our facility has changed. These are not petty criminals. Many of them are hardened, and we recognize that these are the types of people you must deal with on a daily basis. My administration appreciates your work, and I support this investment into our MERT program,” Hughes said.

The philosophy of this Master Program is to manage potential situations by avoiding confrontation and by de-escalation unless absolutely necessary.

The Mercer County Correction Center is located in Hopewell Township and houses approximately 800 inmates on any given day. Correction officers maintain order within the institution and enforce rules and regulations. To help ensure that inmates are orderly and obey rules, correction officers monitor the activities and supervise the work assignments of inmates. Sometimes, officers must search inmates and their living quarters for contraband like weapons or drugs, settle disputes between inmates, and enforce discipline. Officers also escort prisoners between the institution and courtrooms, medical facilities, and other destinations.

Hughes endorsed the intensive program’s “train the trainer” approach, meaning that the individuals who are now certified as Master Instructors will impart their knowledge to the teams of officers at the Correction Center through in-house training, thereby saving taxpayer dollars.

The 80-hour course, provided by consultant Thomas J. Archambault of TJA Use of Force Training Inc., covers all aspects of advanced officer training, including confrontational avoidance techniques, restraint training, cell extractions, use of weapons, range exercises, riot control, and written and practical exams. As part of their final exam, officers were required to perform an oral presentation that would be suitable for a civilian audience. Among the topics presented were the importance of the MERT program; use of tactical gear; and alternative inmate control measures. The more skills an officer can utilize and execute effectively during training, the greater the likelihood of him or her successfully resolving a crisis in reality, added Hughes. The certification is good for five years.

The members of the Elite MERT are volunteers, and the best of the best, said Warden Charles Ellis. The veteran officers collectively have more than 100 years experience in corrections and law enforcement. “We have high expectations of them and the confidence that they will impart their knowledge to their fellow officers. They truly have demonstrated their leadership abilities, and I am thankful to County Executive Hughes for his support to this valuable program,” Ellis said.

Training took place at the Mercer County Correction Center firing range, the Mercer County Police Academy, located at Mercer County Community College, and at the Dempster Fire Training Academy. Hughes added that Corrections’ staff greatly benefited from the shared services arrangements that County has with all its entities, adding to the breadth of experiences for the officers.

Among the new program graduates are: Lt. Michael Gorski; Lt. Chris Zegarski; Lt. Carlton Gittens; Sgt. Shawn Palmer; Sgt. Jippy Creighton; Sgt. Timothy Friel; Sgt. George Mizsak; Sgt. Michael Kownacki; Sgt. Scott Moon; Officer Russell Morgan; Officer Edgar Oyola; Officer Alex Trojakowski; Officer Thomas Baldwin; Officer Robert Walter and Officer Brian Waters, SWAT Medic. The MERT Commander is Lt. Eric L. Boné.