BERGEN POLICE CHIEFS ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT WRITES: Since 1935 the Bergen County Police Chief’s Association has represented over seventy law enforcement executives in Bergen County with integrity and distinction. During that time we have worked closely with county, state and federal officials to improve law enforcement services throughout the county, and we are proud of the business relationships we have developed.
The proposed merger of the Bergen County Police Department and Bergen County Sheriff’s Department is an issue that we have and continue to take very seriously because it has the potential to have a direct impact on the delivery of law enforcement services to our communities.
As law enforcement executives we would be remiss if we didn’t have questions and concerns about the business model of this proposal.
On two separate occasions I have corresponded with the freeholders and in addition I have spoken with a freeholder to express our interest on this matter.
During the conversation I mentioned that as an association we looked forward to providing input and offering constructive criticism on the proposal. The freeholder seemingly took offense to that phrase and made it clear it was an “implementation” committee and there would be no discussion on the merits of a merger.
That being said, I continued to express the interest of our association to be represented on the committee and offer input so we have a clear understanding on how law enforcement services would be delivered in Bergen County.
Since that timem the unwillingness of the Board of Freeholders to communicate with our association and to include us in discussions has been disconcerting.
At a time when taxpayers expect and deserve transparency from its political leaders, the freeholders have made a decision to move forward with the proposed merger in a vacuum and not solicit input from the Chiefs Association, [which represents] one of the largest group[s] of stakeholders in the county.
Convening meetings on the matter without representation of any of the elected Board of Officers of the association demonstrates a continued lack of respect for the Bergen County Police Chiefs Association.
The latest veiled attempt by the freeholders to give the impression of inclusion is to utilize a retired chief and ask a small group of police chiefs six questions with regards to the merger.
It is insulting to think the freeholders are proposing to create the largest law enforcement agency in the county with over 500 officers and the input sought is limited to six very rudimentary questions that are not truly reflective of the issues.
It is clear that the freeholders do not understand the complexity of the task they are contemplating and are simply going through the motions without a true understanding of the concerns held by the Police Chief’s Association.
The concern of the Chief’s Association on this issue is not without basis. It was approximately just four years ago when the freeholders promised residents that regionalized law enforcement dispatch services would save significant taxpayer dollars.
On October 1st, 2010, Bergen County opened its doors to a $13 million dollar 911 Command Center and promised county taxpayers that it “could save each municipality up to $200,000 a year.” (Source – Bergen County EOC- Case Study).
Unfortunately prior to building and equipping the complex the freeholders never sought the input from representatives of the Chiefs Association, which may explain why there is limited support and participation for the communication center from municipal law enforcement agencies.
The Chiefs Association believes there is merit in regionalizing dispatch services, but unless the proper business model is developed and the stakeholders are engaged, it will not succeed as is evident with the current dispatch center.
Would taxpayers of the county be better served if a study was conducted on what is needed to attract law enforcement agencies to an already existing $13 million dollar facility and infrastructure before taking on a more complex consolidation issue?
The Bergen County Police Chiefs Association recognizes the burden of taxpayers and supports attempts to reduce the duplication of law enforcement services in Bergen County as long as it does not interfere with the professional delivery of these services.
It continues to be our belief that local police agencies represented by the Bergen County Police Chiefs Association is one of the largest — if not the largest — stakeholder in the proposal to merge or consolidate the two agencies.
Common sense would dictate that our input and comments should be sought and would ultimately prove valuable to decisions made on this topic.
The association has no political agenda on this issue and our only concern is to ensure the delivery of law enforcement services in Bergen County in a cost-effective and efficient manner which is what the residents of Bergen County have come to expect and deserve.
James N. Batelli, President
Bergen County Police Chiefs Association