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Newark Mayor Booker Will Start Firing Police to Narrow Deficit

Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, New Jersey. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, New Jersey. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Nov. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Newark will fire 167 police officers starting Nov. 30, to pare down an $83 million budget deficit, after union leaders rejected a bid by New Jersey’s largest city to avoid the cuts, Mayor Cory Booker said.

“Every city employee is making profound sacrifices, and the only group that has made no concessions is the Fraternal Order of Police,” the mayor said yesterday in a statement, referring to the union. He said the group’s leaders hadn’t given their members a chance to vote on a city proposal, as promised.

The local’s executive board voted unanimously Nov. 22 to reject the proposals from Julien Neals, Newark’s acting business administrator, the organization said yesterday in a statement. The group represents the city’s 1,279-member force. It had offered reductions in stress pay, clothing allowances and raises, according to the city.

The city proposed reducing overtime, 10 days of deferred pay and a giveback of five days’ pay, Booker said. The city was trying to save about $9.5 million from police costs and prevent the dismissals, according to Booker’s statement. He said union leaders indicated publicly on Nov. 20 that they would give their members a chance to vote on the city’s offer, then didn’t do it.

“Other communities across the state and nation have called upon their police unions to share the pain of this economy through even more significant concessions,” Booker said. In Newark, the union leadership “has failed its membership and the citizens,” he said.

$83 Million Deficit

The mayor is trying to reduce the deficit in the city’s $605 million spending plan for fiscal 2010, which ends next month. On Nov. 20, Booker asked the union to work out a solution with the city of 280,000 and proposed forgoing dismissals in exchange for five furlough days and a reduction in overtime that went beyond what the unions had offered. Booker gave the group until Nov. 30 to vote on the plan.

Booker had called the firings “entirely avoidable.” He had planned to start dismissing the 167 officers on or about Nov. 12. The action was delayed until Nov. 22 by Superior Court Judge Kenneth Levy, who issued a 10-day stay for negotiations.

“Since announcing police layoffs, Mayor Booker has attempted to mask his incompetency and dishonesty by vilifying the” union, the group said yesterday in its statement. “He has attempted to divide this police department by pitting officer against officer.”

The mayor won approval from the state Civil Service Commission on Sept. 23 to fire 860 city workers, including the police officers, and to demote 123.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ashley Lutz in New York at alutz8@bloomberg.net; Terrence Dopp in Trenton, New Jersey, at tdopp@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net.

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