Whether a crisis occurs at a home, mall, school or…

Whether a crisis occurs at a home, mall, school or high-rise casino, ACERT must stay “Always Turned On” to get guns on target quickly and work all the angles to end incidents safely and with minimal force.

Officer Kevin Hincks assumed a low crouch as he approached a victim lying on the floor of the mall’s department store. Covered by the charged HK UMP of an officer alongside him, Hincks lowered his rifle and grabbed the collar of the victim’s shirt before pulling him behind a service desk that provided some cover. Realizing the victim was shot in the thigh, Hincks told him to apply direct pressure to his wound then resumed covering the aisles and lanes in front of him.

The gunman was less than 20 feet away when Hincks made his move, but seeing that other officers attempting to negotiate distracted the man, Hincks decided to take the chance to save an innocent life. With the help of the store’s surveillance system and a floor plan with a map of fire exits posted to the wall, it took only minutes for the officers to close on and contain the gunman, who earlier walked in and opened fire with a handgun. Despite heroic attempts to negotiate his surrender, the gunman later raised his weapon at the officers who had surrounded him and forced them to open fire and end his life to protect their own. Fortunately, these events were all part of a training scenario designed to test the capabilities of the Atlantic County Emergency Response Team (ACERT).

The seaside resort of Atlantic City boasts glamorous hotels, shopping malls and casinos, but outside the well-protected entertainment districts are tough neighborhoods where patrol officers are not permitted to enter alone. To combat violent crime in these and other areas of Atlantic County, police departments throughout the jurisdiction combined their efforts with the formation of ACERT.

Managed and led by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office, the team is staffed by over 50 officers from various county and local agencies who continue to work their regular shifts while remaining on call to respond to any crisis the team is ordered to.

Dogs at Work #2Y81 Len Waldron
“When ordered, the K-9 sprinted to the suspect’s position and clamped its jaws onto his arm before pulling him down onto the dirt.”

Responsible for 671 square miles of urban and residential communities and a population of nearly 300,000—not counting summer’s influx of tourists and temporary residents—the team’s operating area includes every inch of the county and their callouts involve all types of crime. Serving high-risk arrest and search warrants makes up the bulk of their workload, with cocaine and heroin trafficking from New York and Philadelphia contributing to a high operational tempo. Less common, but often posing a greater risk to both officers and civilians, are the hostage takings, barricaded suspects, active shooters and manhunts that require the high level of training, proficiency, and resources ACERT was created to provide.

With multiple agencies detailing officers to ACERT, the team’s weapons represent the preferences of their respective commands. Not surprisingly, much of the team is armed with the Smith & Wesson M&P15, a 5.56mm AR-15 platform featuring selective-fire and Picatinny rails for mounting optics, lights and other tools.

Heckler & Koch’s .40-caliber UMP and 9mm MP5 are also represented, and are the preferred weapons of several of the team’s longest-serving operators because of their compact size and reliability. A variety of EOTech and Trijicon optics are fitted to these rifles in addition to Insight and SureFire lights with the SureFire M900V Foregrip LED being the most popular. Sig P229R and Glock 22 sidearms, both chambered for .40-caliber ammunition, are the two most prevalent models in the team’s holsters and are all fitted with removable Insight lights. Each operator’s woodland camouflage pattern uniform is partially covered by an MSA vest that holds Level IV ceramic plates for ballistic protection and a variety of tools in MOLLE-compatible pouches. A GENTEX ballistic helmet completes their standard protective kit.

To allow movement and staging during high-risk operations, an armored Lenco BearCat, procured through a Department of Homeland Security grant, is permanently assigned to the team. It saw regular action in 2006 when area schools received a series of written bomb threats. To safely approach and search the targeted schools, the BearCat provided protection for ACERT and supported bomb disposal technicians until the threats were finally stopped after the team made a series of arrests. A fleet of other vehicles is also available for ACERT’s use, including the OEM’s mobile command post where ACERT commander Lt. Sean Clancy and team leader Sgt. Tom Finan routinely oversee major operations. With the team and the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office for over a decade, Clancy and Finan were founding members of ACERT and are now a major force in ongoing efforts to standardize equipment and develop it into a full-time capability for the county. The pair pushed programs and equipment for tactical medicine, explosive breaching and an expanded sniper team. All are set to become a reality, which will greatly increase the safety of officers assigned to ACERT and the communities they protect.

Only volunteers staff ACERT and each must first be selected by their own agency before competing in the team’s competitive tryout process. Following selection, all new recruits complete a 40-hour course in basic SWAT tactics before they’re considered a full member. After initial certification, operators continue to train as a team a minimum of 16 hours per month and must pass an annual physical fitness test to stay active.

Additional individual training and certifications are required for some positions with course topics including breaching, chemical agents, distraction devices, precision marksmanship and tactical medicine.

Officers also have the option of choosing to enlist in the county Hostage Negotiations Team (HNT). Intended to de-escalate situations and facilitate their positive outcome using communication rather than force, these men and women respond to many callouts alongside ACERT’s traditional operators. All of the team’s formal training is conducted under SWAT standards developed by the National Tactical Officer’s Association (NTOA), which the team follows on actual operations.

To keep their skills sharp, ACERT frequently conducts exercises like the one in the mall described above and also trains with other teams in the area, including the Atlantic City and Cape May County Regional SWAT teams, which have mutual aid agreements in place to assist one another in the event of a large-scale crisis that might exhaust the resources of a single agency. Many of these events are full-scale exercises using Simunition FX rounds that focus on major and populated infrastructure.

Always Ready
Whether a crisis occurs at a home, mall, school or high-rise casino, ACERT is expected to get guns on target quickly and work all the angles to end it safely and with minimal force. This takes training, equipment, and especially dedicated officers with the knowledge, experience, and skills to take on the county’s worst criminals. Mirroring the motto of their county’s largest city, ACERT stays “Always Turned On.”

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  • wannabcop

    What a bunch of BS. I think its time for new ACERT Team leadership, the desk jockeys had their chance and have completely blown it. Sean n Tom ur in over your heads, stop pretending to be somthin your not, YOUR not even cops. Save us the ridicule n turn the team over to someone else who dosent live in fantasy land. The only good part of all of this isthat everyone knows its not the pd that created this crap, your pathetic reputations have preceded u. Ridiculous


    AHHHHH COCKIEPOT WHAT A BUNCH OF BLABLABLA.. In other words Sean & Tom need to step down off their high horses. They need to seperate themselves from ACERT for the team to save face.Until then their not going to get the respect the team deserves.

  • CB

    This story is a fictional depiction of the founding of ACERT by two members.While the acronym ACERT may have only been in use for the last few years, there has been dozens of law enforcement officers in Atlantic County that have performed tactical functions for many years. The Prosecutor’s Office previously used SWEAT (Search Warrant Entry Arrest Team) while other municipalities chose SRT or ERT. Prior to being called ACERT, law enforcement agencies in Atlantic County consolidated into Atlantic County SRT. Atlantic City SWAT did not join the county team and has soley serviced the tactical needs of Atlantic City for decades.In forming SRT, the county team has been lead by Commanders from agencies such as the Egg Harbor Twp PD. I give these details out of respect to the previous operator’s, team leaders and commanders who served. It appears reading this story that some may want you to believe that these tactical operators never existed prior to the current regime of ACERT. As you can see the county team has had several acronym changes over the years: SWEAT, SRT and ERT. To no surprise it is also “rumored” that they wish to be called AC SWAT (Atlantic County SWAT)!! With the above background hopefully the readers of your magazine can now see why the content of this article is being criticized. Equally important is the misleading information aka BOLD FACE LIE that there are tough neighborhoods where Atlantic City Police Officers are not permitted to enter alone. This is in fact not true and a direct insult to the uniformed officers of the Atlantic City Police Department. Sadly it appears that someone ACERTed their foot in their mouth during the creation of this story!!
    Chris Barber
    Atlantic City SWAT

  • Frank

    Someone please tell me that this is a joke, because it’s a pretty bad one at that. This is so embarrassing to Atlantic County and the ACET Team. Finan looks so big in the picture his mussles are so big..Amazing what photoshop can do

  • Chris

    I to am member of the Atlantic City Police SWAT Team. regarding your latest issue of Tactical Weapons “Boardwalk Defenders” Sean Clancy and Tom Finan should be ashamed of yourselfs, it’s all made up in your small minds. Is Finan really a Cop.. NOT!! Whats up with the picture, dude your watching to much TV. Stay out of Atlantic City and leave the Crime Fighting to the Big Boys.. Go back to your computer job. You guys are going to get someone hurt trying to play cops.

  • Hug it out

    First and foremost the article as written is not accurate and everybody knows it. Second do you think guys at the county would be that crazy to allow any of that story to be posted. Third, you want to trash anybody trash the judges who go against recommendations of the prosecutor, release repeat offenders out on bail and in general do not care about justice.

    As for keeping bad guys off the street I realize the frustration that is associated with seeing the same faces on the street but to misplace your anger at another agency is really not going to help things. After all ACPO doesn’t seem to care when you guys violate people’s rights, write false statements or allegedly steal dogs. So lets all just hug it out and get back to work.

  • Brendan

    This sounds like some guys measuring manhood. Is city SWAT really that upset about the label boardwalk defenders? Instead of SWAT getting the title it would be better. For patrol cops working way more than a handful of cases. In another comment someone said county needs city OK before coming in. What planet is city over county? All you guys need to start being friendly and work together to make that dump safer.

  • James Armstrong

    For the sake of cooperation between the Atlantic City Police Department and the Atlantic County Prosecutors Office I am hoping this article was a “misquote or misprint”. Some accurate statements do exist. Atlantic City does have bad neighborhoods, inhabited by many, many, dangerous armed domestic terrorists roaming free after laughable “plea deals” negotiated by the Atlantic County prosecutors office. We, in the city then clean up the mess created by laughable “plea deals” while most members of the prosecutors office sit comfortably behind desks in an office protected by the sheriffs department. Articles such as this further fuel inter agency conflict unnecessarily. The “Boardwalk Defenders” should focus on protecting thier informants whom they are notorious for getting killed……In Atlantic City, again leaving us to clean up the mess. At the very least members of the Atlantic City Police Department should have been consulted as our boardwalk is pictured in this article.
    James Armstrong/ACPD SWAT

  • Street Cop

    Phillip Null have you confirmed with the Atlantic City Police Department that there are tough neighborhoods where patrol officers are not permitted to enter alone? I find it unbelieveable that you will diminish the credibilty of your publication with such an absurd statement.

  • SWAT guy

    I agree this is not a reflection of ACERT. talk about embelishing, OMG! Sean and Tom you should be ashamed of yourselfs, this is so embarrassing.

  • Brian

    As a present member of ACERT, I’m embarrassed by how thisarticle is written, it’s very misleading. I guess that’s what happens when youallow guys who aren’t even cops to run a tactical team. To the ACPD guys,please don’t judge all the police departments involved in ACERT based off whattwo boobs told this magazine. You guys defiantly have your act together as ateam, probably the best in our part of the state. This article is real kick toyour backs. I’m sure all the info will come out in the coming weeks, can’t waitto watch these guys babble, backtrack and finger-point their way out of this!

  • Frank Timek

    I understand your position, but you should know that we have been in touch with ACERT’s leadship and they are stating that they were miss-quoted and that the reporter took their input on this article completly out of context. They are blaming this on your magazine despite the fact that we know they approved it. I appreciate your quick response and will allow the leadership of my department handle this issue from here.
    Frank Timek

  • Frank Timek

    I am a member of the Atlantic City Police SWAT Team. In reading your latest issue of Tactical Weapons headlined “Boardwalk Defenders” I cannot be more disgusted. The facts presented in this article concerning the Atlantic County (ACERT) team are simply not true. ACERT deals with towns in the county that do not have their own swat team unlike Atlantic City. They do not even cross our jurisdictional borders without consultation from Atlantic City and when they have they are usually in a support function only. The Atlantic City Police Department’s SWAT Team has a 25 man team that services the city exclusively. These so called Boardwalk defenders do not exist. In fact I believe they executed about 8 jobs last year compared to Atlantic City’s approximate 100.
    I speak on behalf of many who are extremely angry about the inaccuracies of this article. I for one would like to know who provided you with the information used in writing this piece and would like to see a retraction made publicly.
    Frank Timek
    ACPD SWAT Team


      Mr. Timek,

      All info in the article was received first hand from the Atlantic County SWAT Commander, Team Sergeant, and members of the team. Though you demand a retraction you concede in your comments that the county team is used within the urban areas of Atlantic City, though often after consultation with or requests from city officials. This is discussed on the last page of the article [please see print magazine article] where cooperation between the county team and Atlantic City and Cape May Regional SWAT is discussed.

      The city and its county are known nationwide because of city’s boardwalk and casinos, a fact that was drawn on for the title of this article. After review there is no reason to retract. Descriptions of the equipment used by the team are correct, the case summaries can be sourced with news reports, and the team’s operating area is defined by their jurisdiction, which includes all areas of the county.

      – Phillip Null