By Maddy Vitale
Promotions, new hires, retirements of two K-9s and the additions of two others were all part of a swearing-in ceremony at the Cape May County Criminal Court House on Friday afternoon.
Earning a promotion, a sergeant became the first female lieutenant in the Law Enforcement Division of the Sheriff’s Office. In addition, a 58-year-old former officer with the Wildwood Police Department was sworn in as an investigator after going through the police academy a second time in his life, making this ceremony anything but typical.
Not to mention retiring K-9 Hank, a bloodhound, serenading the crowd in the courtroom gallery with his howls at the sound of applause.
“Thank you for coming and sharing in this moment. These officers are embarking on new careers,” Sheriff Bob Nolan said. “We look forward to them having a lengthy, flourishing career. These young men and women are putting their lives on the line. This is a dangerous job in law enforcement. We are all working together. This is a great community of law enforcement in Cape May County.”
Nolan conducted the swearing-in ceremonies.
Officers were sworn in as follows: Sheriff’s Officers Chris Bieberbach, Robert Kelly and Patrick Quinn; Corrections Officers Darlene Asencio-Perez, Christine Erpen, Brian Harrison and Joseph Fowler; Sheriff’s Officer Lieutenant Beth Perednas, Investigator Mike Siderio and Sheriff’s Officer Sergeant William Gouse.
Perednas’ daughter, Lorin, and husband, Tony, attended the ceremony.
The new lieutenant, the first woman to attain that rank in her division, grew up in Sea Isle City. She and her family live in Dennis Township.
Prior to the ceremony, she said that she is looking forward to her new role in the Sheriff’s Office.
“I think it is an exciting opportunity,” Perednas said. “I came from the K-9 Unit. I loved that work, but I am looking forward to my new job.”
Perednas’ K-9 partners, Hank, 8, a bloodhound, performed tracking, and Jax, 9, a Belgian Malinois was trained in narcotics. They officially retired Friday and will continue to live with the lieutenant, but as pets, after excelling at their long careers in law enforcement, Nolan said.
“They are aging out,” Perednas said of her K-9s. “They have had good careers.”
For Siderio, a married father of four with four grandchildren, the thought of going back into police work seemed like an unattainable dream.
He left the Wildwood Police Department after nearly 12 years of service to help take care of his son, who was suffering from a breathing illness.
Siderio and his wife, Cindi, opened a tattoo parlor and settled into life as business owners.
Decades later, after some conversations with Nolan, a longtime friend, he decided to try to get back into law enforcement.
“All my life I have always been physically active. If you don’t use it, you lose it,” Siderio said.
But going through the five-month rigors of five days a week at the police academy in Cape May seemed a bit daunting, he admitted. Especially since recruits were about half his age.
“I definitely held my own. The younger guys got in better shape as time went on. But I stayed the same. I held my own,” Siderio said with a laugh.
His wife was alongside him for the ceremony.
“It is full circle for us. He was a good police officer. He opened a business and now he is going back to law enforcement. The kids look up to Michael,” Cindi said prior to the ceremony. “He is unique.”
Nolan said it was remarkable that Siderio would not only return to law enforcement but go through the academy successfully at this point in his life.
Then Nolan said with a laugh that he didn’t think he could go through the academy again.
At the end of the ceremony, two new officers joined the room. They were two K-9s, keeping the number of police dogs to six in the Sheriff’s Office. Nolan said that way three are on in the day and three at night.
K-9 Ares, a Belgian Malinois, will be patrol and narcotics detection trained. His handler is Officer Connor Hughes.
The other new K-9 addition, Frankie, a German shepherd named in honor of Trooper Frankie Williams, who was killed in the line of duty in 2006, will be patrol and explosives detection trained. His handler is Officer Dustin Phillips, who was good friends with Williams.
The K-9s and their handlers will be attending 16 weeks of training conducted with the New Jersey Police K-9 Association in Voorhees.