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Bergen sheriff’s union president: Higgins’ remarks ‘unprofessional, uncalled for’

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

A PBA CHIEF WRITES: As the president of PBA Local #134, I cannot and will not stand for untruths and misrepresentations being made by Bergen County Police Chief Brian Higgins about the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office and the fine men and women who work there.

I respect the fact that Chief Higgins is trying to promote his agency and provide a clearer picture of the role his officers play in providing law enforcement services to the residents of Bergen County. However, I do not understand why Chief Higgins feels the need to continuously denigrate and diminish the role that the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office has in providing law enforcement services to taxpayers, in order to promote the Bergen County Police Department. It is unprofessional and uncalled for.

Chief Higgins claims that he respects Sheriff Michael Saudino, yet he raises concerns about law enforcement decisions being put into the hands of a “politician.” By his own admission, Chief Higgins says he reports to and takes direction from County Executive Kathleen Donovan, who by many accounts, is proving to be one of the most polarizing and controversial political figures in recent history within Bergen County. In her absence, County Administrator Ed Trawinski is his boss. Both are career politicians without one single day of law enforcement experience.

That puts Chief Higgins in the Number 3 spot within the chain of command and the decision-making process.

Conversely, Sheriff Saudino and his Undersheriffs provide the benefit of nearly 150 years of law enforcement experience to the citizens of Bergen County. Who do YOU think is more qualified to make decisions that could mean the difference between life and death?

“I respect the Sheriff’s Office, but they can’t be police officers,” Chief Higgins said. “They are corrections officers by title and work the jails or the courts.”

This isn’t only completely inaccurate — it’s insulting to all Correction and Sheriff’s Officers.

Obviously the Chief has no idea about the divisions that comprise the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office, about Civil Service titles or about our job descriptions. Our sworn Correction Officers operate the cleanest and safest county jail in New Jersey, hands down. Our sworn Sheriff’s Officers provide a multitude of law enforcement services to the community ( SEE: www.bcsd.us ) and our duties are far from limited to the “courts and jails,” as Chief Higgins would have you believe.

As Sheriff’s Officers, we receive the same training and are empowered with the same duties and responsibilities as any police officer in the State of New Jersey. In fact, sworn members of the Sheriff’s Office work side by side with members of the Bergen County Police Department serving as the lead instructors for Basic Police Officer Training at the Bergen County Law and Public Safety Institute.

What’s more: We also have the authority to provide several other services that County Police Officers do not ( SEE: Title List ).

“Higgins added that the expectations of the officers in each department differ,” an article about his recent statements said.

What expectations is he referring to?

I can tell you the expectations we have as proud Sheriff’s and Correction’s Officers: Waking up each day, arriving at work safely and on time, getting our work assignment for the shift, remaining diligent to our duties — while maintaining a fair, firm, and consistent work ethic — and, God willing, returning safely home to our families.

I can’t imagine that his officers wouldn’t share the same expectations.

To be on the verge of extinction and constantly in the political cross hairs has to be a terrible feeling, and I do not wish that upon anyone. Again, I respect and appreciate why Chief Higgins is out there defending and promoting his Department. I have many friends and colleagues in the Bergen County Police Department, yet it is dialogues such as this that create an unnecessary strain between our two agencies. To recklessly and purposefully try to minimize the role of one county agency in an effort to promote your own is inappropriate and unprofessional.

Chief Higgins, I urge you to find a way to defend your department without taking bush-league cheap shots at the hard-working men and women of the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office.

Respectfully,

Michael J. Doyle
President
PBA Local #134

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RELATED:

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A state court has rejected a bid by New Jersey PERC to intervene in Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan’s appeal of a local judge’s decision that she implement 2011 and 2012 pay raises negotiated by Sheriff Michael Saudino and the union representing his officers. READ MORE….

Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan

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