Newark Sees Largest Police Layoff In Decades
(seated left to right) Derrick Hatcher, president of the Newark Police Officer's Union is seen along with Ken Gaulette; Alonso Vinueza; and Jerry Aquino; alll Newark Police officers, listening intently to the decision of Judge Levy during a hearing concer
The Star-Leger via YellowBrix
November 30, 2010
NEWARK — After months of verbal jousting and public finger-pointing between union leaders and the Booker administration, 167 Newark police officers turned in their guns and badges, finalizing the department’s largest reduction in force in 32 years.
Union president Derrick Hatcher killed any chance of an eleventh-hour deal Monday morning when he rebuked Mayor Cory Booker’s final plea to return to the negotiating table, according to an e-mail obtained by The Star-Ledger.
“This e-mail is to inform you that our membership has expressed no interest in re-opening the contract or executing any side agreements with the City of Newark regarding the Lay Offs,” wrote Hatcher, president of Newark’s Fraternal Order of Police, in response to an e-mail from Booker titled “Trying Again.”
Booker wrote to Hatcher Sunday night hoping to revive negotiations that stalled last week when both sides shot down proposals to avert the layoffs.
The mayor had one final sit down with Hatcher last night, asking for small concessions that would have saved 10 officers’ jobs, according to city spokeswoman Esmeralda Diaz Cameron, but the unions didn’t budge.
The mayor said Monday he remains hopeful of striking a deal with the FOP that would bring some officers back after the midnight deadline.
“The city’s budget situation has not changed, and concessions are still needed if we are to consider bringing back officers in the near future," Booker said in a statement. "Anything the FOP can do to help us hit our budget target while keeping as many officers as possible on the job will always be welcome.”
The layoffs are projected to save $9.5 million in annual expense, part of the Booker administration’s effort to close a $83 million hole in the 2011 city budget.
The layoffs will reduce the department’s total staffing to 1,098 and prompt the dismissal of nearly every police officer hired by since 2006.
On Nov. 18, the FOP offered $2.7 million in concessions from the 167 officers facing dismissal and $6 million in pay deferrals through 2013, but city officials said the deferrals were not “true savings,” because the money had to be repaid at some point.
Days later, the city asked the union to accept a one-time salary deferral, an overtime cap and five unpaid leave days to be recouped as time off in addition to $2.7 million in concessions from the officers facing layoff.
The deal did not require the contract to be re-opened, but Hatcher said the language of the proposal violated the contract anyway.
The FOP did not vote on the city’s offer, said Hatcher, who said he discussed the deal with “some” members of his executive board and realized it would not have passed.
Without concessions, Booker said layoffs are the only way the city can close an $83 million budget gap. The mayor has accused Hatcher of playing politics, while Hatcher claims Booker hid Newark’s cash crisis until after the May election.
Many of the officers who lost their jobs at midnight Monday night said they were angry with the union and Booker.
“The union didn’t even let us vote on it. We were stuck between a rock and hard place. Now we’re just unemployed,” said Zack Vonlagen, 25, who surrendered his gun and shield when he reported for duty. “They shouldn’t have even hired us … You don’t buy a house that you can only afford for eight months.”
Alonso Vinueza, 33, another officer who was laid off, believes veteran officers refused pay cuts that would have saved his job. He said he hoped “the senior officers, with their untouched contracts, can live a fruitful life.”
Newark hasn’t faced layoffs this large since 1978, when then-Mayor Kenneth Gibson eliminated 200 police jobs and the city suffered a spike in violent crime.
Current Police Director Garry McCarthy reorganized the department’s command structure on Nov. 11 to cope with potential layoffs, and said the reduction in force will not prompt a surge in crime.
But for 167 now-former Newark police officers, Monday meant they had to stop worrying about the city’s security and start agonizing over their own. Officer Sherri Dillard, 30, sobbed as she walked out of the city’s Second Precinct.
“You’re telling me my lifelong dream is over?” she said. “What am I going to do now?”