Five officers from the Madison, Mount Olive, Morris Township and Morris County Park Police departments were sworn in Monday as the newest members of the elite, highly-trained Morris County Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team.
Accompanied by parents, friends and police chiefs from their respective departments, the five new SERT members sworn in as deputy sheriffs by Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon are Madison Police Officers Ryan Dunn and Julian Morales; Mount Olive Township Officer Matthew Koppinger; Morris Township Officer John Burk; and Morris County Park Police Officer Christian DiGiralomo.
The five officers are part of SERT, which is tasked with responding to major incidents in Morris County that require expert marksmanship, hostage negotiation skills, search and rescue, extreme fitness and ability to quickly assess dangerous circumstances and de-escalate situations to peaceful resolutions.
Sheriff Gannon called the SERT officers “warriors,” entrusted with protecting the community from hazards, threats and emergencies. The five new members were selected from 50 law enforcement officer applicants around Morris County and went through rigorous fitness and skills training before being sworn.
Morris County SERT is one of the few such teams selected for specialized training by the U.S. Secret Service and in the next few months, its members will receive additional training by Tier-One military units in skills to include rappelling, and counter-assault tactics by the Secret Service.
“When the bell rings we simply need the best. You guys are the best. I trust my life with you,” Gannon told SERT at a ceremony at the Morris County Office of Emergency Management.
“We’re very fortunate in that regard to have what we need here,” Gannon said. “You’re the elite of the elite.”
The Morris County Sheriff’s Office in 1988 created SERT, which was composed exclusively of sheriff’s officers until 2013 when the team was reconstructed to include talented law enforcement officers from municipal departments.
In 2017, under Sheriff Gannon’s leadership, two full-time SERT operator positions were created and filled by Sheriff’s Office Corporal Jamie Rae and Sheriff’s Office Bureau of Corrections Corporal Matthew Cilurso. Working with SERT Commander Gino Fluri, Rae and Cilurso focus daily on checking and monitoring critical infrastructure and areas deemed vulnerable to threats.
The other SERT members are volunteers who remain employed by their respective police departments but respond when SERT is alerted.
Fluri, the SERT commander, said members have conducted 624 training evolutions, participated in more than 2,548 hours of specialized training and more than 24,000 individual unit-training hours.
SERT responded to 78 requests for service in 2018 and also provides an extra layer of protection at large events, festivals and parades. The majority of SERT’s time though, Fluri said, is spent training and making sure members are fully prepared for emergencies.