The Hoboken Police Department received their Emergency Response Truck for the department’s first-ever Emergency Services Unit (ESU) last week. The ESU acts as the first line of defense in large-scale issues until SWAT teams can arrive on scene.
The ESU Team is comprised of 11 tactical officers with specialized training including active shooter response, rescue drills, firearms training, SWAT, and emergency medical responder school, as well as two crisis negotiators.
In 2007 the Hoboken SWAT team was disbanded following a national scandal in which photos surfaced of some of its members with Hooters waitresses, allowing them to hold their weapons during a Hurricane Katrina relief mission. There is no SWAT team in the city today.
SWAT teams (Special Weapons and Tactics) are only called to handle major events, while the ESU handles all types of scenarios. Its officers go on routine patrol 16 hours a day, handling regular calls. The Police Department receives 98,000 calls per year.
According to Police Chief Ken Ferrante, Hoboken hasn’t needed a SWAT team, as major events are rare, but saw a void that needed to be filled by the ESU team.
“It’s something we have needed for a long time,” said Ferrante.
The new vehicle and specialized equipment, which cost nearly $190,000, was funded through the Local Law Enforcement Trust Fund.
The ESU vehicle is equipped with flood lights, ladders, ballistic shields, saws, basic fire suppression equipment, high capacity weapons, basic medical equipment including oxygen, breaching equipment, and rescue ropes.
Ready for anything
“While this unit is trained to handle worst-case scenarios, they are on patrol every day responding to every type of emergency call including motor vehicle crashes with injuries, medical calls, burglaries, robberies, fights, emotionally disturbed persons, rescue calls, weapons calls, and dangerous animal calls, just to name a few,” said Police Chief Ken Ferrante. “If the unfortunate event ever occurs involving an active shooter, barricaded suspect, or a terrorism incident, this unit has been trained and is ready to handle all kinds of scenarios.”
The ESU team consists of Commander Lieutenant Corrado Allegretta, Sargent Cesar Olivarria, Sargent David Olivera, and Officers William Bullock, Luke Zeszotarski, Tyrone Huggins, Wilfredo Gomez, James Barbro, Nate Arocho, Ramon Calderon, and David DiMartino.
“In addition to the tactical officers, we have also trained a Lieutenant and a Sergeant in crisis negotiations so that we can defuse high-risk situations before having to possibly use force, which is always the last case option,” added Ferrante.
The crisis negotiators are Lt. Anthony Pasculli and Sgt. Steven Kranz.
“The city of Hoboken is much safer today than it was yesterday,” said Ferrante. “With the addition of our Emergency Service Unit Utility Rescue Truck, known as ESU2, the Hoboken Police Department is more equipped and better trained to handle any type of situation.”
“I had a vision of our city having this type of elite unit for the past 10 years.” –Chief Ken Ferrante
According to Ferrante the officers are trained and certified to national standards in a variety of skill sets, which will help them handle any type of large scale scenario but are not a SWAT team.
10 years in the making
“I had a vision of our city having this type of elite unit for the past 10 years,” said Ferrante. “I began discussions with Sgt. Cesar Olivarria in the spring of 2015 to develop the concept of the unit and what types of equipment the city would need. On December 3rd, 2015, the day after the San Bernardino terrorism mass shooting, I convened my training staff and explained we need to accelerate the plans and organizing of the creation of this unit.”
Ferrante said he solicited help from other police departments in the area with the specialized unit for guidance when trying to build Hoboken’s including Union City Police Chief Rich Molinari and ESU Commander Captain Brian Wolpert.
He said they donated their time to “help us organize putting this unit together and serving as a model for how we would design our concept for this unit, which was to be an Urban Emergency Service and Rescue Team.”
Ferrante said that although there have been many changes to the Hoboken Police Department since he became chief in 2014, he is proudest of this new elite unit.
“Our residents, visitors and officers are safer, and our officers are ready and able to handle any type of situation,” said Ferrante.
“The city of Hoboken is safer today thanks to the highly-trained and specially-equipped elite Emergency Services Unit which is prepared to handle every type of situation,” said Mayor Dawn Zimmer. “I thank and congratulate Chief Ferrante and all members of the Hoboken Police Department on this tremendous accomplishment and for their work every day to keep our residents and visitors safe.”
Marilyn Baer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.