EXCLUSIVE: State Sen. Paul Sarlo told CLIFFVIEW PILOT he planned to review a proposal by state Sen. Gerry Cardinale to abolish the Bergen County Police Department and merge operations with the Sheriff’s Office. However, Sarlo said it’s best left to county officials, and not state lawmakers, to determine how Bergen is policed.
(From left:) State Sen. Paul Sarlo, Bergen County PD Chief Brian Higgins, State Sen. Gerry Cardinale, Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino
“We recognize that this is tremendous savings to the county taxpayers,” Sarlo told CLIFFVIEW PILOT through a spokesperson this afternoon.
“However, at this time we are evaluating the merits of the bill.”
He then added a pointed message:
“County elected officials need to step up to the plate and a make a decision on the future of county law enforcement agencies and their responsibilities.”
Cardinale, a Republican, told CLIFFVIEW PILOT this afternoon that he was seeking across-the-aisle co-sponsorship from his Democrat counterpart.
“There was a change in the draft that occurred early this week,” Cardinale said. “[Sarlo] only got the change yesterday and needed a chance to read it. It has to do with preserving the Central Municipal court.
“He’s going to review it over the weekend.”
A spokesman for Sarlo confirmed that the senator intends to review the revised draft and said there “won’t be any type of announcement at least until Monday.”
Cardinale’s proposal — first reported in CLIFFVIEW PILOT 10 days ago — is specific only to Bergen and Union counties, the only two left with county police departments (All counties are required to have sheriff’s offices, ostensibly to operate the jails, transport prisoners and protect courthouses, among other duties).
CLIFFVIEW PILOT EXCLUSIVE (May 7, 2012): State Sen. Gerald Cardinale pledged tonight to submit proposed legislation in Trenton that essentially would require the Bergen County Police Department and Sheriff’s Office to merge, a move that he claimed would save $17 million. READ MORE….
Union County already is in the process of consolidating, said Cardinale, who noted that municipalities and counties themselves are creations of the state — as are county police departments — and can be abolished.
“The prediction by the sheriff is at the end of three years we’ll be saving $17 million,” Cardinale told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. “Consolidation, when it saves money, must be done.”
Public safety would actually be enhanced, the state senator said.
“When you have a need for two different agencies performing essentially the same service, in many instances they can get in one another’s way,” Cardinale said. “It’s inefficient. You have too much administration.
“We don’t need a chief and a sheriff. We don’t need duplicate administration. We don’t need another floor on the new county courthouse for county police. “
The move comes at a time when local and county officials are battling over how Bergen is policed — particularly the cost of that protection.
“If this is going to save the taxpayers millions of dollars and we are not compromising officers’ safety and public safety, what offical wouldn’t be in favor of it?” Bergen Sheriff Michael Saudino told CLIFFVIEW PILOT this afternoon.
Saudino has been at odds with County Police Chief Brian Higgins and County Executive Kathleen Donovan over the county’s various layers of policing. However, the sheriff emphasized that current conflicts should have no bearing on decisions that carry well into the future.
“If this actually does happen, then 10 years from now — when I’m not here and Brian Higgins isn’t here — there would be one agency providing services and everyone will be getting along fine.”
Higgins, in turn, said Saudino’s and Cardinale’s math is off.
“Our budget is less than $17 million,” he told CLIFFVIEW PILOT this afternoon. “The only way to save $17 million is to completely eliminate the county police, including the bomb squad, the SWAT team, the K9 unit, all of the security guards in all of the county builddings and our county schools and in our county parks.
“There’s no way he can save that money by merging the two agencies. It’s just a transfer of power.”
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