NJ Cop Layoffs Nearing 700, and Counting

By Brian Thompson
|  Tuesday, Jun 8, 2010  |  Updated 7:01 PM EDT
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NJ Cop Layoffs Nearing 700, and Counting

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Police charge a Killingly mother with murder for her 20-month-old son's death.

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With their budgets under the gun, towns across New Jersey are pushing the pink slips not just on sanitation workers and road crews, but with their police departments as well.

A survey by the New Jersey State Policemen's Benevolent Association documented 617 police officers facing likely layoffs by July 1 -- and an additional 67 who have already been laid off to help plug budget holes.

"It stinks," said Passic City Police Officer Jennifer Horn, 28, who was injured recently when her patrol car was rear-ended by someone she said was probably DWI.

Horn, who has been on the force for just three years, was one of 18 officers who have gotten pink slips.

Five-year veteran Braulio Barbarosa, 30, got one as well even though he was shot in the leg during a major drug bust this past March. But the Army veteran shrugs that off.

"I was never one to shy away from danger," he said -- yet quickly added he doesn't know what he will do for his wife and four children.

But the layoff notices have been flying from one end of the state to the other.

Franklin Township in Somerset County is down for eight  fewer officers. Garfield said it will lay off seven officers. Pleasantville outside of Atlantic City has to get rid of six.  Interlaken is shuttering its entire four man police department and contracting out with a neighboring town for coverage.

Then there are communities like Woodbridge, better off than many.

Mayor Jon McCormac told NBCNewYork that neither police nor civilian workers face layoffs, despite a nearly $5 million hole that he has to plug in the new budget year that begins July 1.

"Laying off cops is a last, last, last resort for us," said McCormac.

But McCormac quickly added that he is trying to negotiate a zero per cent pay hike in the next contract for his Superior officers.

In addition, he said he has eliminated the D.A.R.E drug education program in Woodbridge schools, putting the two officers who staffed that back out on the street.

"A very unpopular move," Mayor McCormac called it but he said educators are best equipped for teaching anyway.

He added that while there will be no layoffs this year, as officers retire, they will not be replaced.

It is frustrating to the head of the PBA.

"The number one responsibility of government is to provide a safe and secure environment for its citizens," argued union president Anthony Wieners.

But now it is up to union locals to try to stave off layoffs in their own communities.

And in Passaic, union rep Mark Kovar said they have tried to negotiate a freeze on the  4 percent pay hike police are supposed to get there.

"If we can guarantee that no officer would lose their job or get demoted, our membership would go for that. But they won't guarantee us that," said Kovar.

Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY

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