Emergency Services Unit | Commander Rich Conte #187


In the late 1970’s the Howell Township Police Department was tasked with handling critical incidents that the general services of the Police Department was not properly prepared to handle. Incidents such as hostage situations and barricaded persons made it difficult and extremely dangerous to handle utilizing traditional police resources. As a result, the Howell Police Department implemented a Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT) that was referred to as the “Special Forces Unit.” A group of about ten officers, many with military backgrounds, began training and utilizing more advanced tactics and weapons to lessen the danger involved when a critical incident occurred.


By the early 1990’s the need to have sufficient SWAT coverage for all municipalities within Monmouth County was recognized and a regionalized program was implemented. At that time the Special Forces Unit of the Howell Police Department was one of four teams responsible for covering all municipalities within the county. Over time, this program was met with reluctance due to a heavy financial burden to neighboring towns that utilized the service.


In 2004 the Monmouth County Prosecutors Office approved a program to integrate the existing SWAT teams within the county and conduct a strenuous selection process to bring officers onto the Monmouth County Emergency Response Team (MOCERT) from other agencies within the county. The plan was to unite several skilled police officers from area departments thus creating less of a draw on any one agency and therefore minimalizing any potential financial burden. The members of the Howell Township Emergency Services Unit pioneered this program and ultimately designed and implemented the selection process.


On January 1, 2005, MOCERT became operational and handled its first critical incident on February 20th when a domestic dispute erupted into a barricaded person in Howell Township. This incident and, thankfully, the dozens of critical incidents MOCERT has responded to since, have been successfully handled.


The commitment of the Howell Township Police Department permits members of our agency to gain valuable experience throughout the county so they are better prepared to handle critical incidents when they happen closer to home. Every member of MOCERT participates in hundreds of hours of training each year that are instructed by personnel from within MOCERT, as well as instructors from around the country from law enforcement agencies at just about every level of government.


The members of the Howell Township Police Department’s Emergency Services Unit are proud of their efforts in helping this countywide program get started, and are a critical part of keeping MOCERT going. Through the efforts of these officers everyone in Monmouth County is significantly safer.