Six years of strife, acrimony and turmoil ended for good when Bergen County Sheriff Anthony Cureton swore in 25 former county police officers and promoted a dozen others as official members of his department.
A ceremony on the steps of the Bergen County Courthouse in Hackensack on Thursday completes the merger of what had been the Bergen County Police Department with Cureton’s office.
“After six years of negotiations, we were able to bring closure to the matter and move forward unified as one law enforcement agency,” the sheriff said.
“Together we have achieved our agency’s goals,” Cureton said.
For one thing, he said, county law enforcement operations will now be more effective and efficient.
“There will continue to be costs savings, increased public safety, and removal of duplication of services, which are just some of our rewards,” the sheriff said.
Bergen County’s freeholder board and the state Civil Service Commission gladly rubber-stamped the merger last year.
In exchange for job security and the opportunity to apply for special units and promotions, the former county police officers agreed to become sheriff’s officers.
That means withdrawing grievances and lawsuits that had been filed over a period of more than five years.
Cureton inherited the situation and made a successful merger a priority when voters elected him in November 2018 to replace disgraced Sheriff Michael Saudino, who resigned after secretly recorded racist and homophobic remarks drew fire all the way up to the governor's office.
Cureton has said throughout the process that he wanted to “put the safety of Bergen County residents first and provide unity of purpose.”
He thanked the leadership teams of PBA 134 and PBA 49 “for their efforts throughout this entire process.”
The officers had worked under the sheriff’s Bureau of Police Services since an initial merger attempt failed in 2015.
The arrangement stirred animosity, in part over the fact that the county police PBA 49 members made more than the Local 134 sheriff’s officers.
Raises will bring all of the salaries in line, Cureton said.
Sheriff’s officers will continue to meet all public safety responsibilities that had been handled by BPS members, he said.
PBA leaders said they were pleased with the outcome, noting that Cureton negotiated “fairly and in good faith.”
They vowed to “continue to serve the residents of Bergen County professionally and efficiently.”
Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco thanked Cureton, his leadership staff and the unions for "their tireless efforts in helping to achieve this shared service for the residents of Bergen County."
"One chain of command will further streamline efficiencies, reduce duplication of services, enhance police services, and continue to save taxpayers money," Tedesco said.
The Sheriff's Office is responsible for maintaining order and security at the Bergen County Justice Center, providing for the care and custody of inmates at the Bergen County Jail – both in Hackensack -- and assisting the county's 68 municipal police departments.
The sheriff’s office has tactical units and handles all forensic procedures through its Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Sheriff’s officers also patrol and protect county roads, parks and critical infrastructure and serve writs, court orders, foreclosures and court executions.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.