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DV Pilot police & fire

Bergen County PD could police Elmwood Park, Rutherford

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

ONLY HERE ON CVP: Officials from Elmwood Park and Rutherford are discussing having Bergen County Police assume responsibility for their boroughs, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned.

In each case, “it’s a matter of officials faced with spending caps needing to find a way to do more with less,” a source close to the talks told CLIFFVIEW PILOT today.

It’s the same in Demarest, as CLIFFVIEW PILOT reported exclusively last week: Bergen County PD to police Demarest, consolidation study not ready

The rank-and-file in Elmwood Park said Tuesday morning that the move was news to them.

“This isn’t something the majority of us are looking for,” one officer told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “We have our own department and we’re happy with it.

“We thought we put this issue to bed earlier this year.”

The prospect of a merger with the county first arose in Elmwood Park last November. Talks continued into February after Chief Donald Ingrasselino and six other officers abruptly resigned from the department late last year. They represented a fifth of what was a 40-member department and included Ingrasselino’s likely successor, Deputy Chief John Palmeri.

New leadership was put in place, including several officers who are awaiting promotions.

Borough officials also said during a public meeting that they didn’t intend to pursue a merger. That’s where Elmwood Park Police Benevolent Association President David Meyers said he though it was left.

“We’re 100 percent against it. We’re proud and honored to serve the residents of Elmwood Park,” Meyers told CLIFFVIEW PILOT Tuesday afternoon.

Officers are pleased with Chief Thomas Johnson, who was sworn in last month.

“The union is 110 percent behind the chief. He’s a wonderful person, a past PBA delegate and just a great guy,” Meyers said.

Officers were feeling that the department had turned a corner when they heard of the possible new development, the union chief said.

Borough officials are striking a spending plan that takes into account
a contractual obligation to the retirees of a combined $1.2 million for unused sick days and other time off, as well as other obligations, in order to keep the overall increase in the 2012-13 budget below a state-mandated 2% cap.

At the same time, they don’t want to compromise public safety. Already, civilians are handling desk duties that were once done by uniformed officers.

On top of that, Johnson has been in talks with school officials of how to best protect children walking to school if busing is reduced.

The future of policing throughout Bergen County remains in flux. The findings of a committee studying county-level consolidation of law enforcement was briefly delayed amid the death last week of its chairman’s father, J. Fletcher Creamer Sr.

County freeholders have been awaiting the committee’s report before conducting public hearings on Donovan’s proposed spending plans for the county police, prosecutor’s office and sheriff’s department.

The panel’s findings still must first go to Donovan, who will review them and offer her own recommendations when releasing the report. The panel was created to suggest how best to protect the county with the least overlap following a study commissioned by her predecessor, Dennis McNerney, that questioned duplication of services.

Against that backdrop, battles have raged between Donovan and Sheriff Michael Saudino over the role of the county police.

Although the study spoke of consolidating and possibly eliminating the department, the BCPD has entered into agreements with towns eager to cut costs by having it handle their public safety responsibilities.

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