SOUTH AMBOY – City officials announced last week that five police officers – 16.7 percent of the police force – could be layed off as soon as July 1.
“It is a difficult decision, and no one in this administration is happy about it, but the action is necessary in order to deal with the budgetary constraints we are experiencing not only here in South Amboy, but throughout the state and nation,” said South Amboy Mayor John T. O’Leary.
Officials did not name the affected officers, but they are the five most junior on the 30-man force according to the mayor.
Police Chief James Wallis said that the layoffs were tough, but he was confident that city officials were doing everything possible to avoid the layoffs.
“Anytime anyone loses a job, it’s hard,” he said. “I’m the one that had to hand them their notice. It’s tough. They are all five young good officers, and we hate to lose them.”
The layoffs were necessary because of an increase in mandated budget expenses and a decline in tax revenue. O’Leary said, “I can assure the city residents that the layoffs will in no way affect their security here in the city of South Amboy.”
State Policemen’s Benevolent Association spokesman James Ryan disagreed. “If they were justified in hiring 30 officers in the first place, what makes them think now they don’t need that same protection?” he asked.
“Just last week the Attorney General released numbers saying crime is up,” Ryan said. “With crime up and the economy being down, now is the time we need more officers, not less.”
South Amboy has applied for a federal grant that would pay for the salaries and benefits for five officers for three years, but officials need to begin making preparations for the layoffs in case it is not approved.
“We are cautiously optimistic, but frankly we have to prepare for a worst-case scenario,” said O’Leary. “We all need to remember we are in the worst recession this country has seen since the Great Depression.”