EXCLUSIVE: A long-awaited report recommends that the Bergen County Police Department be virtually gutted, with various functions given to the county sheriff and prosecutor, various sources with knowledge of the report told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.
NEWS: A Bergen County Police officer was indicted on charges of pointing a handgun at two bouncers at the Cornerstone in Hillsdale while drunk and off-duty. David Vargas, 27, is charged with aggravated assault and unlawful weapons possession in connection with the March 6 incident. CLICK HERE….
The bottom line in the Bergen County Law Enforcement Consolidation Study: County police would keep its canine unit, the bomb squad and the SWAT team, according to three different sources, including law enforcement officers, affected by the eventual outcome of the review.
Remaining functions would be merged with the sheriff’s department or turned over to the sheriff’s or prosecutor’s offices, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned.
Neither Bergen County Executive Kathleen A. Donovan nor Prosecutor John L. Molinelli could immediately be reached.
However, Jeannie Baratta, Donovan’s chief of staff, said the report cannot be released because “it is still a deliberative document. As soon as I get word, I will be releasing it. We will also be putting it up on the county web site.”
After receiving a copy of the report on Friday, Donovan announced the formation of an ad hoc committee, headed by businessman J. Fletcher Creamer, to review the findings and offer opinions.
“After I am satisfied that all issues have been addressed, I will share my conclusions with the various stakeholders,” Donovan said.
Earlier today, the Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders introduced a $487 million county budget, down a fraction (-$760,000) from last year. If the spending plan is adopted at a scheduled public meeting June 15, county taxes won’t rise for the first time in eight years.
Bergen County officials sought the study last year amid a tight economy and calls to merge services. Forfeiture funds covered the cost of the review by the prosecutor, who is the county’s chief law enforcement officer.
“Combining and sharing personnel, equipment and facilities among the Prosecutor’s Office, Sheriff’s Department and County Police should be studied in a comprehensive and thorough manner,” wrote former county Executive Dennis McNerney, who was defeated by Donovan in last fall’s election. “I believe that a deliberative study can provide answers as to how we cut costs without cutting services.”
McNerney also said he wouldn’t consider requiring municipal police departments to hire more officers as a result of cuts at the county level — somewhat of a prescient move, considering how hard local police have been hit by layoffs and cries by Gov. Christie to reform their pension and health benefits packages by legislation rather than through collective bargaining.
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