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New Bergen County Executive Signs Deal Merging Police, Sheriff's Departments

PARAMUS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- After years of political bickering, the new Bergen County executive signed a historic agreement Thursday – merging the county police with the sheriff's department.

As CBS2's Christine Sloan reported, new Bergen County Executive James Tedesco stuck to the campaign promise to merge the departments, signing it into law on his very first day in office on New Year's Day 2015.

He combined the 103-member county police force with the sheriff's office, with an elected official – the sheriff – in charge.

"When the realignment happens, then we'll have two outstanding organizations under the control of just one person," Tedesco said. "Nothing else changes."

Tedesco, a Democrat and a former mayor of Paramus, was sworn into office in a private ceremony a little after midnight Thursday. His move to bring the departments together was a controversial one.

While there will not be layoffs, the goal is to shrink what will be called the Police Bureau Division to 49 officers through attrition.

But Bergen County police officers are uncomfortable with the move and said the department's identity could be lost.

"They're concerned. Bergen County Police different than any other agency -- nothing to take anything away from other agencies – but this is not just our job. It's more than a career. This is our lifestyle," said Bergen County Officer-in-Charge Capt. Mark Lepinski. "So for someone to come along and say you will no longer be a Bergen County police officer, it hurts."

County Sheriff Michael Saudino said taxpayers will save money, but will see small changes at first – such as the relabeling of Bergen County police cars and uniforms.

"The men and women will be wearing the uniform of the Bergen County Sheriff's office," Saudino said. "However, there will be what they call a rocker under our patch that will say, 'Bureau of Police Services.'"

Reaction among Bergen County residents was mixed.

"If it's going to be beneficial for the taxpayers' money, I think it makes a lot of sense," said Milind Rao of Maywood, New Jersey.

"I think time will tell," another man said. "I'd like to see the plan that they have."

The Bergen County Chosen Board of Freeholders still must vote on the agreement.

After the freeholders vote, the public will have a change to discuss the deal at a meeting. There will also be a six-month study on how best to combine the two departments.

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