HACKENSACK, N.J. – Twenty-six law enforcement officers with the Bergen County Police Services were laid off Monday, and 11 more were demoted, according to their union president.
The officers and dozens of their supporters gathered in Hackensack to walk along River Street from the Bergen County Plaza to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation building to turn in their equipment.
Two at a time, they went into the building to officially hand in badges, guns, magazines and vests, according to Chris Weston, president of PBA Local 49.
Weston said the officers received emails Sunday night informing them that they would be laid off at 4 p.m. Monday.
Among the 37 officers who were affected by the move, 19 are veterans, he said.
“We have one officer who is overseas. He doesn’t know if he is going to have a job when he gets back from Afghanistan,” Weston said Monday.
Another veteran, John Baker, served with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq, and spent over 11 years as an officer with Bergen County. He was in Hackensack Monday to turn in his equipment.
“I just bought a house. My wife is pregnant,” Baker said, adding his wife is due in July and he is now worried about health insurance.
Dan Sansevere, who was laid off after eight years with the force, said he is also worried for his family.
“We are trying to figure out how we are going to put food in my little girls’ bellies and a roof over their heads right now,” he said, as his two daughters, 5 and 3, stood at his side.
Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino said layoffs could have been avoided if union leaders had allowed members to vote on a revised proposal aimed at keeping them employed.
“The state requires that sheriff’s officers, not county police officers, provide law enforcement services in the County Justice Complex,” he said. “Recently the state added a requirement that all civil court room be protected by a sheriff’s officer, therefore resulting in the need for additional sheriff’s officers."
“Currently the top salary for a county police officer is $154,160, whereas top salary for a county sheriff’s officer is $136,165, making the county police officer’s salary within the top 1% for all police officers in the state of New Jersey,” Saudino said.
Last week, he said, PBA Local 49 rejected a proposed agreement that he said “would have kept all effected officers employed while saving tax dollars.”
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