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DV Pilot police & fire

Demarest voters approve Bergen County police merger

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: By a non-binding vote of 1002 to 756, Demarest voters have approved a proposal to form an historic merger with Bergen County Police that would transform the locals into county officers and give the community “enhanced police services.”

There would be no layoffs under the arrangement, authorities have said.

The New Jersey Civil Service Commission would analyze the duties and responsibilities of Demarest patrol officers and sergeant to make sure they conform to those of their county counterparts, as CLIFFVIEW PILOT originally reported exclusively. Demarest’s department, which doesn’t have any lieutenants or captains, isn’t governed by state Civil Service regulations. The county agency is.

For the deal to happen, it must be approved by both the Demarest Council, which will review the proposed contract at a public meeting now that the electorate has had its say, and the Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

The next Mayor & Council meeting is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 19.

Bergen County Police Chief Brian Higgins told CLIFFVIEW PILOT that “police services will not only be provided at the level the public in Demarest has come to expect,” if the deal is approved. “It will exceed their expectations.

“This could be a pro-county, pro-municipal and pro-union merger,” Higgins said.

Residents “will wake up the next morning and not know the difference except for the new patch and badge,” he said (Both departments’ uniforms are strikingly similar).

“This could become a model for the state,” Higgins said, adding that he knows of no other police agencies in New Jersey who’ve forged such an arrangement.

“There are plenty of shared services agreements,” he said, “but no true mergers.”

The state Division of Community Affairs was part of intense talks, as Higgins and others hammered out the deal with Demarest officials.

Instead of dissolving the Demarest department or having it taken over by the BCPD, the contract spells out a merger under the New Jersey Shared Services Act — which means that Demarest officers become county employees.

Demarest Police Chief James Powderley and Deputy Chief David Hoagland would have to negotiate their new positions with county officials. It’s unclear at this point what either will do.

If they become captains, Powderley and Hoagland would be entitled to certain rights and privileges, such as being able to work side jobs. Higgins serves as chief, under the deal.

As for the Demarest rank-and-file, their collective bargaining agreement extends through the end of this year. Both sides intend to honor that deal, so that the interests of all union members are protected, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned. Officers then would become part of the county bargaining unit.

Demarest would pay a so-far-undisclosed fee to help cover costs of the arrangement. How much this could save the borough over the cost of current operations remains an open question.

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