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DV Pilot Police & Fire

Details of Demarest, Bergen County ‘pro-county, pro-municipal, pro-union’ police merger obtained

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT: The police departments from Demarest and Bergen County could form an historic merger that would transform the locals into county officers and give the community “enhanced police services” — if both the borough council and county freeholders approve the move, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned.

The New Jersey Civil Service Commission would then have to analyze the duties and responsibilities of Demarest patrol officers and sergeant to make sure they conform to those of their county counterparts, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned. Demarest doesn’t have any lieutenants or captains.

There would be no layoffs, although it was unclear what positions Demarest Police Chief James Powderley and Deputy Chief David Hoagland would seek.

Among the details that still need to be finalized is the length of the deal. State officials clearly prefer lengthy agreements on shared services contracts.

Contacted tonight after CLIFFVIEW PILOT obtained details of the pending merger, Bergen County Police Chief Brian Higgins said he couldn’t discuss specifics of the contract, which is expected to officially be presented at this Monday night’s Demarest Council meeting.

However, he told CLIFFVIEW PILOT that if both governing bodies approve the move, “police services will not only be provided at the level the public in Demarest has come to expect: It will exceed their expectations.

“This could be a pro-county, pro-municipal and pro-union merger,” Higgins said.

If the deal is ratified, the chief told CLIFFVIEW PILOT, “residents will wake up the next morning and not know the difference except for the new patch and badge.” (Both departments’ uniforms are strikingly similar.)

“This could become a model for the state,” Higgins said, adding that he knows of no other police agencies in New Jersey who’ve forged such an arrangement.

“There are plenty of shared services agreements,” he said, “but no true mergers.”

The state PBA has already expressed support for the move. And the state Division of Community Affairs has been part of intense talks the past several weeks, as Higgins and others hammered out the deal with Demarest officials.

Instead of dissolving the Demarest department or having it taken over by the BCPD, the contract spells out a merger under the New Jersey Shared Services Act.

Powderley and Hoagland would have to negotiate their new positions with the county.

It’s unclear what either will do. Neither could immediately be reached for comment.

If they became captains, Powderley and Hoagland would be entitled to certain rights and privileges, such as being able to work side jobs. Higgins serves as chief, under the deal.

As for the Demarest rank-and-file, their collective bargaining agreement extends through the end of this year. Both sides intend to honor that deal, so that the interests of all union members are protected, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned.

Next month, Demarest voters will be asked whether or not they think the municipal department should be dissolved and the county be given authority for policing the borough, in what is a non-binding referendum on Election Day.

Council members said they wanted to wait until voters have their say before deciding on the move, although the proposed merger would seem to render that question moot.

Still, Mayor Ray Cywinski said he wants to distribute details of the contract, beginning Monday, so that voters have enough information to make a reasoned choice.

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