Mercer became the first county in the state to appoint a Law Enforcement Resiliency Program officer — a move every county will eventually make to comply with a new statewide initiative meant to focus on police department mental health.
Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri and County Executive Brian Hughes appointed Agent Michael Pellegrino as the county’s program officer. The program will train appointed resiliency officers to serve as a resource for law enforcement officers to recognize when they may be overwhelmed and seek the necessary help.
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal implemented the New Jersey Resiliency Program this August.
“We are grateful to Attorney General Grewal for recognizing the need to provide law enforcement officers with the training, tools and resources to promote resiliency and combat the emotional and mental health challenges they face every day while protecting the public,” Onofri told New Jersey Advance Media.
“Agent Pellegrino brings a wealth of experience and expertise to this highly specialized area and we are lucky to have him.”
The statewide initiative requires state, county, and municipal law enforcement to choose a program officer that will undergo training by the FBI. The foundation for the training has four components: mental, physical, social, and spiritual.
“In law enforcement this day and age you probably see things that the average person doesn’t see, do things the average person doesn’t do, and a lot of officers internalize those things,” said Pellegrino.
Once Pellegrino completes his series of trainings, he will begin training others in the department. His goal is to have all officers trained by summer 2020. The directive requires every officer in the state to be trained by the end of 2022.
Prior to this position, Pellegrino worked on the community unit and as a school resource officer. He retired as a juvenile detective with the Ewing Police Department in August after 25 years of service.
“I am grateful to Prosecutor Onofri and County Executive Hughes for this opportunity,” Pellegrino said. “I look forward to helping those in law enforcement see not only their own self-worth, but what they mean to their families and communities,” he said in a statement.