Frank J. Palmieri almost wasn’t a police officer.
But the lifelong Hamilton resident is sure glad he is, as the job continues to find ways to amaze and educate Palmieri.
The latest fruit of his labor came when the Hamilton Township Kiwanis Club honored Detective Frank J. Palmieri at this year’s 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 award was first established in order to provide bulletproof vests to exemplary officers. Grants have since supplied vests to all officers, and the Kiwanis doesn’t have to provide them anymore. But the club’s members wanted to continue to honor the police, and still hold the annual banquet, Porcella said.
Before the banquet, Porcella contacted the governor and town dignitaries, such as Mayor Kelly Yaede. Many of them 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, and his daughter Giuliana, 2.
Palmieri graduated Steinert High School in 1998, and received an associate’s 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 member,” Palmieri said. “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 is not the only member of his family in law enforcement. His cousin is a sheriff in Burlington County, and he has brothers-in-law who are a state trooper and in the NYPD Counter Terrorism unit.
After eight years of work in Hamilton, Palmieri applied for a promotion to be a detective. He’s been in his new role for six months now.
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 police chief James Collins.
At the banquet, the Kiwanis Club provided him with a plaque in honor of his award. Other members in the community donated a watch. Rep. Chris Smith awarded Palmieri with a flag that flew over the United States Capitol building, a certificate of authenticy and a congratulatory letter.
‘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.’
Palmieri said he thinks he was selected because of his personality and demeanor on and off the road, especially in the face of adversity. He faces challenges at home; his son has a rare genetic disorder called Apert syndrome, which causes abnormal development of the skull and has required a number of surgeries.
“That’s presented a tough life at home in addition to the stress of the job,” he said. “As a result, a lot of my peers tell me that I carry myself and handle the situation well.”
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,” he said. “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.
“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.”
Through his service, Palmieri has also learned a great deal about his hometown. Even though he grew up here, Palmieri didn’t realize how big Hamilton was until he 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,” he said. “Hamilton is a good, strong community.”
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.