NJ Judge Delays Layoffs Of Newark Police Officers

NEWARK, N.J. (AP/CBS 2/WCBS 880/1010 WINS) — A judge on Friday delayed the scheduled layoffs of more than 150 police officers in New Jersey’s largest city for 10 days in a ruling he said was a difficult balancing act between public safety and fiscal responsibility.

Issued in a courtroom overflowing with police officers, state Superior Court Judge Kenneth Levy’s decision was a qualified victory for the 167 officers who had faced losing their jobs at 5 p.m. Attorneys for the Fraternal Order of Police had sought a 45-day stay, while the city had sought to have the layoffs begin Friday.

“I’m not convinced by the city that a 10-day stay is going to result in economic and financial chaos,” Levy said.

WCBS 880’s Levon Putney reports from the courtroom

Officers like Sherri Dillard said they headed into court anxious after having already turned in their guns and badges.

“I feel horrible. I don’t have a weapon, I don’t have anything.  Now I have to walk these streets where I live..I’m not sure what to do,” Dillard told CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis.

“I think we need more then ten days. I think we need a lifetime honestly. This city is being rebuilt, but not being built right,” Officer Victor Williams told WCBS 880’s Levon Putney.

Williams has been on the force for three years and used to work cargo maintenance for Continental Airlines.

“I’m in fear with crime going up. They say it’s going down but it’s definitely going up,” Williams said.

“I see people getting robbed…I see people getting their houses burglarized. I could be next,” Williams told 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg.

1010 WINS reporter Steve Sandberg with the latest

“You’ve got gang members that specifically go at police officers. They find out that you’re not a police officer anymore, your head [is] on the chopping block,” he said.

“It’s a relief for the next ten days, but ten days…from now, it’s still going to be the same problem at hand,” another officer told Putney, “hopefully in these ten days, something [will] get done.”

Dillard also reacted following the judge’s decision.

“Ten days, that’s it.  I get ten days,” she said.

“It’s not just about the paycheck,” Officer Aisha McClendon told Sandberg, “I serve the city, I grew up in this city…the people, I serve them.  So if I’m not here, then what happens?”

Earlier Friday, David Fox, an attorney representing police, firefighter and white-collar unions in the lawsuit, said a settlement also had been reached to avoid layoffs for Newark firefighters. More than 90 had initially been targeted, but that number had been reduced recently to 24.

Fox also said a settlement was imminent between the city and more than 100 high-ranking police officers who faced demotion as part of the cost-cutting measures.

Mayor Cory Booker has blamed the layoffs on an $11 million gap in the city’s budget. The lawsuit claims the city never engaged in meaningful discussions to find alternatives to the layoffs, a charge an attorney representing the city denied Friday.

In a statement, Booker’s office said the ruling “will further delay impending layoffs and presents severe financial consequences to the taxpayers in our city.” The statement also said city officials were “prepared to meet immediately in an effort to try to realize savings that will enable the city to meet its budgetary requirements.”

Fox argued the layoffs would do irreparable harm to Newark, where violent crime decreased steadily from 2006 to 2009 but has risen this year. According to police department statistics, murders, shootings, rapes and robberies are up between nine and 16 percent from last year.

Fox also noted the danger to unarmed police officers who live in Newark and are recognizable to criminals who could target them for retaliation.

“I live in this city and I have to walk these streets,” Officer Sherri Dillard said outside the court building. “I’m concerned about my safety and my family’s safety.”

Early during Friday’s 2 1/2 hour hearing, Levy appeared to be leaning toward allowing the layoffs to proceed when he grilled Fox on what would happen if a stay was granted and no agreement was reached.

“It is a significant public safety concern that has to be weighed against the certainty of an increasing budget deficit if a stay is granted,” the judge said. “If you are not successful, there has to be a way to solve a much larger deficit problem” that might require even more layoffs, he added.

Attorney Danielle Torok, representing the city, argued that Newark’s bond rating would suffer if the layoffs weren’t allowed to proceed, jeopardizing the city’s ability to sell bonds to close its budget gap.

City officials say the union has refused to agree to contract concessions. Hatcher said the city hasn’t provided enough information to enable union officials to offer compromises.

“We can’t be negotiating with ourselves,” Hatcher said. “It’s the city’s responsibility to provide us with the information so we can move forward.”

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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Comments

One Comment

  1. The Truth says:

    The Unions have to give in. Retire after 20years and get paid for another 30 or 40 years! Thats the problem right there not to mention the free benefits. Cops and Firemen don’t fool me. Glorified welfare and yelling no one is safe unless they are there. Cities can and will do more with less. Cut the pensions and make theme contribute to medical and you can probably hire twice as many cops but they will whine like they always do.

  2. Fed Up says:

    Corey Booker..You have it all wrong ! These are your “so-called” people. Protect Your People. You want to make cuts…? Start with the Family First recepients who are taking with no givebacks. FREE FOOD…FREE MONEY..AND FREE MEDICAL..AT THE END OF THE DAY THE POT WILL EVENTUALLY BECOME DRY. PUT THESE PEOPLE TO WORK…YOU WOULD BE SHOCKED BY THE AMOUNT OF REVENUE IS GENERATED. AND PERHAPS CRIME WOULD DECREASE..WITH LESS TIME ON THEIR HANDS..

  3. FRUSTRATED HOMEOWNER says:

    THIS IS ATRAGEDY…NEWARK…THE GRITTY CITY..”AS IT’S ALWAYS DEFINED” IS VIOLENT ENOUGH. NOW WITHOUT THE POLICE PRESENCE IT WILL DEFINITELY BECOME THE WAR ZONE. AS A NEWHOMEOWNER IT CAN BE EXTREMELY TERRIFYING. EVERY OTHER CORNER THERE IS BALLOONS AND CANDLES MEMORIALIZING SOMEONE THAT HAS BEEN GUNNED DOWN. ONCE I COME OFF 78..I ‘M VIRTUALLY A PRISONER IN MY OWN HOME. “THE INFAMOUS EX-MAYOR SHARPE JAMES SHOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR ALL THIS..25YRS IN OFFICE AND ALL HE DID WAS PAD HIS OWN POCKETS. NOW, COREY BOOKER HAS TO CLEAN UP THE SPILLED BLOOD. IT’S DISGRACEFUL.

  4. dbt says:

    Every city’s top priority should always be to take care of their public safety personnel (Police, Fire and Corrections). Who else do we look to to take care of and look over us. I have worked as a police officer and in corrections, take the advise of one who knows, you do not want to leave your city unprotected. Where would New York City have been during and after Sept. 11, 2001.

  5. Jack Kennedy says:

    Because Newark needs the National Guard in there, it’s a zoo.

  6. banana head says:

    it’s gonna be a free for all in newark. they thought they held the title for the #1 car jacking city in the usa? now they can hold the tittles for rape, murder, theft and everything else in between. good move newark!!

  7. tiquan mcmillan says:

    i wonder what cory booker be thinkin bout when make bad decision thats he think gud. i also feel like if u think havin cops was crimes imagine when its really no cops n its goin to be killins robbery etc. now u have the lil kids afraid to go outside if it aint no cops just think suppose it was your child or nephew

  8. DisBelief says:

    When police and fire are laid off , their already dangerous job becomes MORE dangerous.. Working harder, or doing more with less is NOT the case… When a cop needs back up and nobody is working how can working harder fix that.. I THOUGHT THIS MAYOR WANTED TO FIX CRIME IN HIS CITY… I’LL BET HE DIDN’T CUT ANY SOCIAL WELFARE PROGRAMS. THAT WOULD CUT INTO HIS CONSTITUANTS POCKETS TO MUCH…. No problem Mayor.. I’ll just keep driving AROUND your city.

  9. DanTe says:

    Hey, why don’t the union just print the money to pay themselves?

  10. Long Overdue says:

    If the mayor and city council don’t have the right to make layoffs to city employees, then both entities are held powerless by the employees. As much as police and firefighters are needed, then can and will have to find a way to get by with less. Everyone else is doing it, so why can’t they???

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