Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

'Realigning' Police

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

'Realigning' Police

Article excerpt

JAMES TEDESCO campaigned on combining the Bergen County Police with the county Sheriff's Office. True to his word, he began that process on Day One of his administration.

The new county executive signed an agreement Thursday that, if approved by freeholders, will transform the 103-member Police Department into a bureau within the Sheriff's Office. The long-term objective is to have fewer law enforcement officers on the county payroll. But we remain skeptical that this plan will achieve that.

By all accounts, this looks like a merger, but the county cannot call it that -- although Tedesco had a momentary slip of the tongue on Thursday. The county is calling it a realignment, because there is a so-called poison pill in the county police contract if the department were either merged or consolidated. The county police would be entitled to substantial raises - the increase would equal nearly $1 million more annually.

If the realignment goes according to plan, the county sheriff would not be able to hire additional officers until the new staffing levels were reduced by about 50 officers, with some exceptions. Both Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino and County Prosecutor John Molinelli have said public safety will not be compromised by combining these two law enforcement agencies. That has never been a serious concern of even the loudest critics of this plan.

Republican Kathleen Donovan, who lost her reelection bid to Democrat Tedesco in November, fought the plan because she believed it would not save taxpayers money when fully implemented. …

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