Bergen County PD

As reported by, members of the Bergen County Bureau of Police Services police union on Monday protested more than two dozen impending layoffs and about a dozen demotions that, the union head said, is an attempt to bust the 75-officer organization.

But Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino, the target of the union’s ire, said there’s another reason for the staffing cuts — namely, his need for more sheriff’s officers in order to satisfy a state-mandated increase in courthouse security.

Det. Chris Weston, president of PBA Local 49, delivered an address at the bureau’s Paramus headquarters Monday afternoon that again accused county officials, including Saudino and County Executive James J. Tedesco III, of breaking promises they made two years ago, when they said bureau officers were not facing layoffs.

“We had believed that our leadership had made a promise that we could count on. And based on their promise … people have made life choices: Families have decided to have children, to buy their first house,” Weston said. “This course of action by county politicians was about one thing, and one thing only: getting rid of PBA 49 and our contract.”

Weston maintains that the layoffs are political payback for grievances the union filed over its contract. And he asked members to plan to attend Wednesday’s meeting of the Bergen County Freeholder Board to further protest Saudino’s layoff plan, which will cut 26 bureau officers and demote 11 more.

 But Saudino, who declined to comment on the union’s Monday statements, said in a Friday interview that his choice is stark: He needs about three dozen more sheriff’s officers to meet state requirements regarding courthouse security and bail reform, but can’t hire more with a newly imposed 2 percent cap on his budget. The unfunded mandates, he said, have driven his decision.

“I don’t want anyone to lose a job,” Saudino said. “I have a solid reputation for working to help cops. This is not something I enjoy … but what are my other solutions? I have no options here. I have no options.”

It’s the latest volley in the ongoing clash between the union and Saudino, who took control of the bureau — which was formerly called the Bergen County Police Department — after its 2015 merger with the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office. The Police Department, which had a separate chain of command, has continued to maintain its own union, separate from the sheriff’s officers.

Tedesco said in an emailed statement, sent by his spokesperson, that he’d been assured by Saudino that any of the 56 bureau officers who received notices of impending layoff or demotion could transfer to the Sheriff’s Office.

Saudino has confirmed that bureau officers can join his office if they choose. But the bureau’s union has balked, saying such a move would mean pay cuts for its officers.

When the two agencies merged in January 2015, officials touted it as a cost-saving measure that would reduce redundancies.

Though the original agreement, approved by the Freeholder Board and signed by Tedesco, said the bureau would eventually be reduced to 49 officers, it explicitly said the reduction would be by attrition only.

But an April 2017 amendment to the agreement changed the document’s wording and included the phrase “attrition to the extent practicable” — thus opening the door to possible layoffs.

Weston has said the bureau’s officers can be used for the court security Saudino says he needs, provided the assignment judge condones it. Saudino said neither he nor the Sheriff’s Office attorneys believe that to be true.

Furthermore, such a move would cause “mutiny” in his ranks, the sheriff said.

“How do I have a county police officer and a sheriff’s officer in the same courtroom when one is making $25,000 more doing the same job? That is a union nightmare. I will be handed down all kinds of grievances — and they’re probably legitimate grievances,” Saudino said. “I want no part of that. I cannot have that.”

The union has also accused Saudino of refusing to meet with PBA representatives. Saudino contends the union tried to ambush him by recruiting other PBAs to attend what the sheriff thought was to be a private meeting, and he has refused to meet since.

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Photo of Michael DeRose Michael DeRose

Michael P. DeRose is a shareholder at the firm and primarily focuses his practice in labor/ employment law and other aspects of civil litigation, such as contract disputes. He has litigated and tried hundreds of matters before the Superior Court of New Jersey…

Michael P. DeRose is a shareholder at the firm and primarily focuses his practice in labor/ employment law and other aspects of civil litigation, such as contract disputes. He has litigated and tried hundreds of matters before the Superior Court of New Jersey, the Office of Administrative Law and the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission on behalf of various labor unions and their members. Michael has extensive experience defending and fighting for members of law enforcement and other public employees facing adverse disciplinary action, such as termination or suspension from employment. He also frequently argues before New Jersey’s Appellate Division on behalf of his clients.

A large portion of his practice is also devoted to contract negotiations on behalf of union clients, representing such clients in grievance arbitration/ contract disputes, and otherwise advising union leaders on labor and employment matters.  Michael also has significant experience in the realm of interest arbitration on behalf of the firm’s law enforcement and firefighter unions. As a result of the firm’s robust labor and employment practice, Michael regularly appears before various state agencies, such as the New Jersey Civil Service Commission, the New Jersey Division of Pensions and Benefits, the State Health Benefits Commission, and NJ PERC. In addition to representing labor unions and active employees, Michael also represents retirees before the Division of Pensions in disability retirement applications, both ordinary and accidental disability retirement, in pension forfeiture actions, and in other miscellaneous pension disputes. He also counsels private business and their principals in contract and employment law, in addition to representing their interests in civil litigation. Michael has a track record of obtaining favorable outcomes for his clients and treats each everyone of them on an individual and particularized basis in accordance with their needs.

Before joining the firm in August of 2015, Michael was an associate counsel at a civil litigation firm out in Trenton, New Jersey, where he principally focused his practice around employment law and tort claims litigation. Prior to that, he served as a law clerk in the Superior Court of New Jersey for the Honorable F. Patrick McManimon, Mercer County Vicinage, from September of 2012 to August of 2013, where he attained significant experience in the realm of alternative dispute resolution having mediated well-over one-hundred cases, primarily related to commercial and residential landlord/ tenant disputes and contract/ business litigation. He earned his Juris Doctorate in 2012 after graduating from the Western Michigan University-Thomas M. Cooley School of Law. In 2007, he earned his Bachelor of the Arts in Criminal Justice and Public Administration from Kean University where he was a member of the Kean University baseball team and vice president of the Alpha Phi Sigma chapter of the National Criminal Justice Honor Society.

Michael is admitted to the New Jersey State Bar, the United States Federal Court for the District of New Jersey, and is a member of the Mercer County Bar Association.