Toms River, NJ — Howell police Sgt. Richard Conte, the head of Monmouth County's emergency response team, was arrested on Friday and charged with attempting to lure a child into a motor vehicle.
Conte was busted in a state-wide sting operation setup to catch child predators. This pillar of the community and "protector of the innocent" — whose base salary tops $140,000 — was caught attempting to lure who he thought was a young female child into his car.
On Friday, Conte, 47, was locked up and charged with second-degree attempted luring or enticing of a child and is being held in the Ocean County jail in Toms River.
"Prior to the arrest, I was made aware of the situation," Howell Police Chief Andrew J. Kudrick Jr. said in a statement Friday. "It sickened me to learn one of my officers, a highly competent supervisor none the less and one that I have worked alongside with for many years on the SWAT team, not only defied my trust, but fellow officers as well. But most importantly, defied the public’s trust and expectations of a police officer. As such, I fully supported the investigation and provided input to ensure his apprehension."
After Kudrick expressed his disappointment in his fellow officer, he then went on to chastise NJ 101.5 for reporting on the officer's misdeeds "without first consulting with me or others directly connected to the investigation."
However, according to NJ 101.5, they reached out to the department who chose not to respond. What's more, arrest records and mugshots are a matter of public record and individuals and news organizations most assuredly do not need the permission of the police to report on them.
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Any attempt to keep this information from the public — no matter how damning to the the department's image — should be seen as a slap in the face to those who advocate for transparency.
According to the Howell Police Department, they are now conducting their own investigation into Conte to determine if he may have been carrying out his sick desires while on duty. And, as his record shows, this officer has had decades to do so.
According to Patch.com, Conte began his law enforcement career in 1991 as a Special Officer I with the Sea Girt Police Department. In 1992 he graduated from the Monmouth County Police Academy as a Special Officer II in the Manasquan Police Department and in 1994 went to the Little Silver Police Department. In 1995 he joined the Monmouth University Police Department and worked there until joining Howell in 1997. In 2004 he was assigned and excelled as a detective responsible for evidence and identification. Conte has been the commander of the Monmouth County Emergency Response Team since 2009.
As NJ.com reports, part of that investigation includes pulling cellphone and computer records, GPS activity on his patrol vehicle and Department of Motor Vehicle access, according to Kurdrick.
Hopefully there are not a slew of victims in his wake, but if there are, they are encouraged to come forward.
As is standard protocol for police departments whose officers get ensnared in sickening criminal cases, the chief assured the community that Kudrick was the only bad cop on the force.
"I offer my sincere apology to the community that we value and respect so deeply," Kudrick said. "Our department's reputation has been tarnished. I ask you not to judge us on the actions of one but rather on the outstanding service the remaining loyal officers provide with professionalism and pride every single day."