County Police Show Off Underwater Robot as Debate Rages Over Future of Agency

Bergen County Police say the remote control evidence recovery robot is one of only a half dozen in the county and provides a valuable shared service that local municipalities likely couldn't afford on their own.

An underwater robot the size of a microwave has found its way into the crossfire of a divisive county-wide debate.

This week, the Bergen County Police Department’s Water Search and Recovery Unit showed off its new SeaBotix LBV-200-4 Mini ROV — a robot designed to assist the 15-person unit in underwater search and recovery.

During a demonstration at the lower lake of the in Mahwah this week, BCPD Sgt. Mark Tiedemann showcased the remote-control device, which sends a video feed from underwater to its operator on dry land.

County police conducted the demonstration in the long shadow of a debate over whether or not the county’s police department — and its specialty units like the WSAR — will continue to exist on their own or if they'll be absorbed by the county’s sheriff’s department.

For Tiedemann, the small robot is a representation of a big reason the merger shouldn’t happen. If the two departments are merged, he argued, many of the shared services offered by the BCPD would fall on individual municipalities.

“We are trained in evidence recovery … so, we know exactly what to do when we recover evidence, and we can testify in court about what we found and how we documented it,” he said. “[Municipal] fire department water rescue dive teams aren’t trained in that.”

A debate has been going back and forth amongst county government officials about whether or not to merge the BCPD with the county Sheriff’s Office since a suggesting the move as a money saving measure.

A judge ruled this week to , but allow for the freeholder board to continue with a proposed ordinance and public hearing on the merger.

Tiedemann said he feels mutual aid between local departments would not make up for potentially losing the county specialty units, such as the WSAR. “We have jurisdiction in the entire county and can operate completely on our own if we need to. Mutual aid can’t cover that,” he said.

When the , opponents argued the burden of special services would fall on local agencies.

However, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli issued a letter to police chiefs saying that had not been suggested. 

The proposed ordinance merging the two departments would transfer the specialty units operated by the BCPD to the sheriff’s office, but would not eliminate them, According to report on NorthJersey.com.

The freeholders may take up the issue again at their meeting this Tuesday. In the meanwhile, Tiedemann said the demonstration of the county’s new robot showcased a shared service the BCPD offers all county municipalities.

The robot, guided by trained BCPD members, uses video and sonar technology to locate objects underwater. It also has a grabber arm that can retrieve the objects it finds.

According to Tiedemann, the robot can help mostly with body, weapons and evidence search and recovery.

“We don’t really do rescue, that’s more of what a [local] fire department does,” he said. “Primarily, we search and recover bodies or evidence from crime scenes that has been tossed into bodies of water.” The unit also does infrastructure inspections “on things like bridges, or holes in ships,” he said.

The robot, which members of the WSAR unit were trained in using this July, will help by diving into waters that Tiedemann called “hazardous” for human divers.

The $107,000 device was purchased with Homeland Security funding, the county said, and is a rarity in the area. The new BCPD robot is one of only five held by police departments in the tri-state area — two are property of the NYPD, one of the FBI, and one was recently purchased by the Jersey City Police Department.

“It’s a great thing for us to have because of what we do,” Tiedemann said. “There are only five or six dive teams in the county. So we are called in to places all across Bergen County. This is an example of a shared service. Each municipality couldn’t afford to buy one of these robots. We are able to offer the technology to all of them.”

The WSAR unit typically responds to 12-15 calls a year, but “it depends on the year.” In 2011, he said the unit responded to 20-30 different calls during Hurricane Irene alone.

Until a decision is made, Tiedemann said specialty units will continue to operate under the BCPD. “I don’t think we’re going anywhere,” he said. “The dive team alone has been here for over 50 years, and we are always improving what we offer to municipalities and getting new equipment and things like that.”

Just Facts September 14, 2012 at 01:48 PM
http://www.nypdrecruit.com/benefits-salary/overview NYC Police Make over 100k in 5.5 years.... get your facts straight.... Lifetime benefits....sick, and vacation time and retire in 20 years... If you think its so great try it "Jealous" also expected life span of a police officer is 66..... This is because while you sleep, cops work....when you party on holidays,,,, Cops work... So don't compare the job to a "normal' 9-5 business job... I have family members who are police officers and I appreciate what they do.... If you like the pay and think its so easy take the test!! NYC gives it every day... I attached the web site! go for it big mouth!
Anonyamous September 14, 2012 at 02:00 PM
I thought the Judge was attempting to disband th BC Police to resolve a wastage issue. One good thing about the war the wealthy became richer with a greater widening of the classes - the poor are now poorer. The Republican are fighting to Not have taxes raise on the most wealthy. Bergen County Property taxes are one of the highest in the country and I don't think we can afford to increase them. NJ Police quota writting tickets , DMV revenue -Insurance surcharges, etc. does appear to be enough to earn revenue for the state in this economy. Something is going to have to give .Have no fear 07410 cutter In a "Police State "I don't think it will be the NJ Police salaries, they rather cut the school system and teachers than touch NJ Police.
Just Facts September 14, 2012 at 03:14 PM
Anonymous - just an FYI... The school budget in Fair Lawn is aprox 86 MILLION DOLLARS. The police budget is 7.5 mil... So SCHOOL BUDGETS ARE GINORMOUS!! HUGE!! BIG!! so it might be easier to cut a HUGE piece of cake off a GIGANTIC cake. A smaller cake is harder to cut... IF you totally eliminated the Police in Fair Lawn your taxes might go down like 400 bucks - per household.. You cant compare .........
Anonyamous September 14, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Yes, I was not aware of the numbers your right when it comes to the school system. Pay the NJ Police 200K, if our budget could support that. But if your going to make a certain level of income and your job is to uphold the law, you need to have a certain level of standards and intergity, I am sorry I do not see this happening in NJ. I am far from being jealous I had a very beautiful house and lifestyle and 1 million dollars worth of assets until the Police became apart of my life. Actually I think they were jealous of me because I had it all ! Why in the world would I be jealous of them ?, rolex, mercedes benz, child in private school, the best of everything, now I am on welfare and have nothing. So let's not talk about jealousy
Anonyamous September 15, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Cutter 0710 FYI I just read article The secret of their success? How US leaders from JFK to Roosevelt and George Bush share Psychopathic traits. I have always known this I watch overachievers like my mother and brother and that same drive that makes them successful can also be a double sword .Like the saying goes everyone is crazy but you. However, in war it is import to understand the psychology of your opponent. Through our own arrogrance we fail to understand that there will be consciences to our actions. Kill Bin Laden, Bomb and kill their people, cause financial suffering and then while you at it why don't you desacrate their religion, yet we are shock when they retaliate against us. We owe how much to China because of our falllen economy and the cost of wars. Muslims are radical about there religions, they believe in being a martyer and dying for a cause. Why keep poking the tiger in the eye and when they react you call them crazy. Only a crazy person would keep antagonizing a tiger and not expect them to strike back. U.S may still be powerful but we are no longer the richest country in world.


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