PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) –– Members of the police union marched to City Hall screaming “911, Who ya gonna call!” as they protested the layoffs of 125 police officers in Paterson on Monday.
Officers wearing protest shirts and holding signs reading “Less cops equals more crime” crowded onto the steps of the city’s Public Safety Complex on Monday.
“This is all I wanted to do since I was born,” one officer said. “It’s just heart wrenching, I can’t believe it.”
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“This is hard. This is something I wanted to do. Now they’re telling me I can’t be an officer,” laid-off officer Nicanor Jiminez told CBS 2’s Christine Sloan.
“It’s difficult. I told you I don’t want to cry. It’s a like a family here. We worked hard to get here and they’re taking our jobs away,” laid-off officer Jaimie Kincherlow added.
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The layoffs of a quarter of the police force comes after the city eliminated 392 municipal workers out of a workforce of nearly 2,000 to combat a $70 million budget deficit.
The officers marched by Mayor Jeffrey Jones, who stood on the steps of City Hall. Residents watched on. The mayor at one point put his head down. Later, during a press conference, he said he had no choice.
“The city chose to lay off the 125 no matter what we brought to the table,” Jones said. “You’re $70 million in debt. You’ve got to lay off enough people to reduce your budget gap.”
Union President Steven Olympia said the layoffs could have been avoided. A federal grant will bring back 25 positions in July.
Eighteen Guardian Angels began patrolling the city on Sunday, a fact that, while welcomed, didn’t exactly leave residents brimming with confidence.
“That’s very bad. It’s bad enough. Who do you call?” resident Shirley Robertson said.
“We need more cops! Without them there will be a lot of crime,” resident Rebecca Paterson added.
Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa said members keep an eye on neighborhoods, break up fights and make citizen arrests. The group hopes to recruit Paterson residents to take over the patrols.
“You take 125 cops away, you’re basically putting a sign out that says, ‘City open. Open season for criminals.’ And we don’t want that image to go out about Paterson,” Sliwa told CBS 2.
Worry over the layoffs isn’t confined to the city of Paterson.
“Actually, I hear that a lot of the confidential informants are advising, like a lot of the narcotics guys and the gang officers, that they’re waiting. They’re waiting for this day,” a cop from neighboring Prospect Park told WCBS 880 reporter Levon Putney.
The officers said they had to dip into their own pockets for uniforms. They didn’t get a stipend. Many of them bought as many as three different uniforms. Now they say they’ve lost that money, too.
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