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NJ Cops to Lawmakers: We Need More Manpower!

NJ Cops to Lawmakers: We Need More Manpower!

A Newark police officer from the most recent recruiting class, (he did not want to give his name) arrives at the 5th Precinct to turn in his gun and other items. He is part of the large group of officers affected by layoffs voted on by the city to cut cos

The Star-Leger via YellowBrix

February 08, 2011

TRENTON — Police and firefighters decried the wave of layoffs across New Jersey today, telling lawmakers there is no substitute for manpower in fighting crime and quickly responding to fires.

Newark Det. James Stewart, vice president of the city’s police union, said since Newark laid off 162 police officers, crime has spiked in the state’s largest city.

He said department figures from Dec. 4 to Jan. 30 showed increases of 50 percent in murders, 38 percent in robberies, 66 percent in shooting incidents, 118 percent in shooting victims and 400 percent in carjackings from the same period in the previous year.

A spokesman for the Newark Police Department would neither confirm nor deny the figures today.

“The mayor (Cory Booker) will tell anybody that will listen that the city of Newark will not miss a beat, the citizens will not know the difference,” Stewart told the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee. “You cannot take the youngest, most aggressive cops away and think you’re not going to miss a beat.”

Senators and audience members were stunned to silence during the testimony of Kelly Walsifer, the 24-year-old fiancee of Christopher Matlosz, a Lakewood police officer slain in the line of duty on Jan. 14.

Speaking through tears, she described Matlosz as a dedicated, loving and cheerful man who excelled at his work, noting he had made the most DWI arrests in Lakewood for 2009.

“New Jersey lost a great hero that day — that’s an understatement,” she said. “I don’t want to get into politics, but the thought of laying off cops truly makes me sick to my stomach.”

Fire departments leaders today took Gov. Chris Christie to task.

“He continues to tell people that everything is fine and no one will perish,” said Elizabeth Deputy Fire Chief Lathey Wirkus. “And I’m here to tell you … that with the current reductions that we’re seeing in both police and fire, there will be increased life-loss — not only with civilians but with firefighters.”

Millburn Fire Chief Michael Roberts said that with statewide cuts, the need for mutual aid — calling in support from neighboring communities — would spike and further strain resources. He said that whenever a company is deployed out of town, the department can hire some overtime workers to fill in, but those costs are absorbed locally.

“The taxpayers of Millburn and Short Hills are part-funding the communities around us,” he said. “I don’t think anyone figures that into their local budgets.”

Several lawmakers said fire departments should consider regionalizing to save costs and maintain manpower.

Wirkus said consolidation has led to real improvements, but that progress could be hampered as those departments lose firefighters.

“We are holding everything together with bubblegum and maybe some glue,” Wirkus said. “And that’s the best we can do at this point.”

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