SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- The Scotch Plains police department celebrated the promotion of Joseph Zito to the rank of captain at Tuesday evening's Township Council meeting with a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony. (He was officially promoted during the summer.)

Capt. Zito was raised in Edison and graduated from JP Stevens High School in 1991. He subsequently joined the Union County’s Sheriff’s Department, where he dealt with jail-to-court inmate transfers and various courthouse functions. He graduated from the John H. Stamler Police Academy, won the John Lodi Award for top academics in constitutional law, and joined the Scotch Plains police department in January 1996

The 24-year veteran of the force served in the patrol unit from 1996 to 2002, when he was promoted to sergeant. He led the department in self-initiated arrests in 1998 and 1999, and received numerous letters of commendation. During his tenure, he was assigned to the Union County Emergency Response and SWAT team, for which he served as an FBI-trained hostage and crisis negotiator. In 2006, he was promoted to lieutenant and serves as a platoon commander until June 2019.

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Notable incidents:

  • In 2004, Zito investigated a kidnapping in progress with retired Capt. Belford in which they located a woman hidden in a home and arrested the suspect.
  • In 2007, he responded to a house fire on Plainfield Ave, entered the home and escorted a woman to safety, an act for which he received the Father Nelligan Award for saving a life.
  • In 2009, he received a Lifesaving Award for helping to lift a vehicle off the pedestrian victim of a motor vehicle accident.
  • Also in 2009, he responded to report of an armed individual in Fanwood who had assaulted a woman, shot and killed her dog, and threatened officers. He temporarily took command of the scene as the ranking officer, evacuated surrounding homes, and set up a perimeter. During this incident, he along with other officers were temporarily pinned down by the suspect, who fired at them using a high-powered rifle. For his actions, Zito received the Combat Cross, 200 Club, and NJLEO Valor Award.

Captain Zito lightened the proceedings by sharing that when he was a kid, his first job choice was not police officer, but race car driver. That career aspiration ended when he got in trouble for taking the wheels off his father's lawnmower to build a go-cart.

“Twenty-four years ago, I started as a young patrolman. I couldn’t wait to come to work. I made a business of catching bad guys and trying to save the world,” said Captain Zito, who thanked his wife and daughters for their support.

“I was hesitant to take the position. I was content. When Chief Conley approached me (about the promotion), I realized that being content hampered my growth,” Captain Zito said. “The past four months have be the best of my career. I’m honored and proud to be part of the forward progress. I’ll do my best to keep everybody safe and happy. I’m not going to let you down.”

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