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Cardinale promises bill that would merge Bergen police, sheriff’s departments

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

CLIFFVIEW PILOT EXCLUSIVE: 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.

Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan, other officials at Demarest council meeting (CLIFFVIEW PILOT PHOTO)

Cardinale made the announcement during an intense council meeting tonight in Demarest, where Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan and other county officials outlined a plan to merge borough police with the BCPD.

In response to demands by their constituents, Demarest council members agreed to hold a referendum on the question, following a meeting that lasted until nearly 2 a.m.

However, they approved that the referendum not be binding.

Demarest residents aren’t the only ones upset about the proposed merger, Cardinale said, adding that taxpayers in other towns have expressed concerns over what they see as subsidizing the cost of policing the borough.

Demarest voters tomorrow till decide whether to allow the town to exceed the state’s 2-percent cap on municipal tax hikes. More than 200 signatures have been gathered on a petition demanding a voter referendum on whether or not to go with the proposed police merger.

broke the news on March 29 that Demarest’s elected officials had tentatively agreed to have their municipality become the first to have the county police department take responsibility for public safety within its borders after the possibility of consolidating operations with Closter fell through ( SEE: Bergen County PD could police Demarest ).

Some borough officials called consolidation a good way to reduce duplication and close a budget shortfall. They also said it was inevitable if municipalities want to keep a small-town feel without pricing their residents and business owners out.

Police Chief James Powderly III supported the move, under which he and some of his officers would be absorbed into the county force. Meetings were being planned to discuss the plan and to begin drawing up a Memorandum of Understanding required under guidelines set by Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli.

There was only one catch: CLIFFVIEW PILOT ‘s exclusive report came as news to many, including some police officers.

Borough officials recently put a FAQ list on the borough website as questions, and fears, mounted.

MEANWHILE, IN HILLSDALE: Four Hillsdale Council members apparently violated the letter of New Jersey’s Sunshine Law by visiting the Bergen County Communications Center in Mahwah as part of a committee exploring a possible switch in dispatching services, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned. READ MORE….

A small group of residents who at first expressed their displeasure with the idea during a council meeting last month swelled into the dozens tonight.

As before, residents tonight questioned why a public referendum on the move can’t be held. They also demanded to know exactly how much the borough would save by surrendering public safety to county control.

Donovan told them no firm figures were available to determine how much, if any, savings there would be.

Cardinale asked what Demarest officials would do if the police force is absorbed into a county department that is eventually disbanded.

“All respect to you, Senator,”

Donovan said, “but the county police is not folding. They will be here.”

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