Hamilton Police Officer of the Year
On April 28th, the Hamilton Township Kiwanis Club honored Detective Frank J. Palmieri at the 42nd Annual Hank Leverence Police Officer of the Year Award banquet. The event was organized by Lorraine Porcella, a Kiwanis Club member and the chairperson of the Police Officer of the Year Award.
“The Kiwanis club is an international organization and our goal is to serve the children of the world. This project is not really associated with children, but we continue to honor a local police officer of the year. The officer is selected by the police department and his/her peers,” Porcella said.
The award was first established in order to provide bulletproof vests to exemplary officers. But, “since grants have supplied their vests, we don’t have to provide those, but we continue to honor them with a banquet,” Porcella said.
Before the banquet on the 28th, Porcella contacted the governor and town dignitaries, such as the mayor. Many of these dignitaries congratulated Palmieri for his work and were present to honor him at the banquet. Palmieri was present with his wife Nikki, his son Nicholas (5 yrs. old), and his daughter Giuliana (2 yrs. old).
This year’s award winner is a lifelong resident of Hamilton Township. He graduated Steinert High School in 1998, and received an associates in general business from Mercer County Community College. His police career began after the 9/11 terror attacks.
“When (the attacks) happened, I was working at a golf course and was in a career to become a PGA (Professional Golfer’s Association) member. But afterwards, I developed a real strong calling for public service. I thought about joining the military and the army, and was encouraged to take the civil service exam. After taking the exam, I was notified in the mail that I would be stationed at Hamilton,” Palmieri said.
In fact, Palmieri is not the only member of his family in law enforcement. “At the time, only my cousin was, who’s a sheriff in Burlington County. Now, I have a brother-in-law who’s a NJ State Trooper, and another brother-in-law who’s in the NYPD Counter Terrorism unit,” he added.
After 8 years of work in Hamilton, Palmieri applied for a promotion to be a detective. “There was a posting in our department, and so I wrote a letter of interest for the position and listed my qualifications. I was fortunate to be selected by the chiefs, and I’ve been in that unit for five months now,” Palmieri said.
Palmieri was then nominated for the Police Office of the Year Award by one of his partners in the force for his exemplary work ethic and demeanor. Then, after two-day voting period, Palmieri was notified of his selection by the police force president.
At the banquet, the Kiwanis Club provided him with a “plaque in honor of his award. Other members in the community donated a watch. I also called our congressman, Representative Chris Smith, and he helped fly a flag over the Capitol in D.C. for the police officer. We then presented him with that flag, a certificate of authenticy, and a congratulatory letter from Representative Smith,” Porcella said.
Palmieri believes he was selected for his personality and demeanor on and off the road, especially in the face of adversity. He also faces challenges at home; his son has a rare genetic disorder called Apert syndrome which has required a lot of surgeries. “That’s presented a tough life at home in addition to the stress of the job. As a result, a lot of my peers tell me that I carry myself and handle the situation well,” he said.
Palmieri plans to continue to work for the foreseeable future, not only due to his commitment to work, but also because of what he learns from the job. “When I was hired I had one image of what a police officer does, but as I went through training, I learned more about what an officer has to do, and all the different hats we have to wear. It’s more than just locking up bad guys and giving tickets. Officers often help people that are going through marital issues, victims of domestic violence, etc.,” Palmieri said.
“You deal with people at their best and their worst. Sometimes you can act as a mediator between neighbours, a marriage counselor, or a guide for juveniles who are going through a tough time. There are so many different things you can do to help the community as an officer,” he added.
Through his service, Palmieri has also learned a great deal about his hometown. “Even though I grew up here, I didn’t realize how big Hamilton was until I became an officer. I’ve learned that we have a great community that supports not only the township but the police force, and that’s really special, especially now. Hamilton is a good, strong community,” he said.
Even to those not in the police force, Palmieri stands out for “his service to the police department and to the community itself. It’s been a pleasure meeting him and his family, and we are very proud to honor him,” Porcella said.
Overall, Palmieri thanks all his “fellow co-workers because I’ve gotten to learn from them, and that’s gotten me to where I am today. I also thank my family, as without them I wouldn’t be able to do the job as well as I could,” Palmieri said.
“For me, this is one of the greatest honors that our department can give out, so to receive it from my peers who I look up to is really special,” he added.
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