By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Their black shoes were polished to a high gloss. Their silver badges glistened in the auditorium lights. Their light blue uniforms were crisply ironed, not a wrinkle to be seen.
Shane Rauner and Jacob Diggons looked every bit the part of professional police officers ready to begin their critical job of protecting the community.
On Monday, that’s exactly what they will do when they start work as the newest officers with the Ocean City Police Department.
Rauner, 25, and Diggons, 22, took the first step toward becoming rookie cops when they graduated Friday evening from the Cape May County Police Academy during a packed ceremony at the Performing Arts Center at Middle Township High School in Cape May Court House.
Graduates and audience members all were required to wear masks inside the auditorium for protection against COVID-19.
Altogether, 48 recruits were part of the graduating class. They will be heading to police departments across New Jersey following 21 weeks of intense training that included physical fitness, firearms proficiency, survival shooting, real-life shooting scenarios, unarmed defense and emergency response.
They also had courses in professionalism, ethics, the criminal justice system, criminal and motor vehicle laws and arrest laws.
“I feel great. It was definitely difficult, but we had the support of the entire class,” Rauner said of the training.
“It was a great experience,” Diggons added. “It was some of the best training that I ever got.”
Ocean City resident Bill Rauner, Shane’s father, and Brady Rauner, Shane’s brother, smiled broadly while watching Shane celebrate his graduation with his fellow recruits.
“We are very proud,” Bill Rauner said. “The whole family is proud, including his mother, three sisters, and brother. He’s a young man and he wants to help his community.”
Rauner and Diggons both live in Ocean City and have strong ties to the community. Rauner graduated from Ocean City High School in 2015 and was a three-sport athlete. Diggons graduated in 2017 from Clearview Regional High School in Mullica Hill, N.J., but has lived in Ocean City since 2017.
“They’re great. They’re both homegrown guys. It’s good to get two homegrown guys,” Ocean City Police Chief Jay Prettyman said of Rauner and Diggons in an interview after the graduation ceremony.
Prettyman noted that Rauner and Diggons will start their field training on Monday, their first official day as full-time officers. With Rauner and Diggons on board, Ocean City’s police department will now have 67 officers, just one short of its full complement.
During the ceremony, Prettyman handed out the graduation certificates to Rauner, Diggons and all of the other recruits. Prettyman was joined on stage by Cape May County Prosecutor Jeffrey Sutherland.
In addition to Ocean City, the graduates are heading to the following police departments in New Jersey: Avalon, Cape May City, Lower Township, New Brunswick, North Wildwood, the Salem County Sheriff’s Office, Perth Amboy, Rutgers University, Sayreville, South Brunswick Township, Willingboro Township and Woodbridge Township.
“It has been a long and challenging road for these recruits,” Thomas DePaul, director of the Cape May County Public Safety Training Center, said in keynote remarks during the ceremony.
DePaul told the graduates that their training has prepared them to “face all of the challenges of modern law enforcement.”
“Your career and what you become is in your hands,” he said in closing remarks.