ATLANTIC CITY - One-third of the city's police sergeants received demotion notices Friday, adding a new rank to a demotion list that already included 15 high-ranking law-enforcement officials.
Police Chief John J. Mooney III and PBA President David Davidson both confirmed that 19 of the department's 58 police sergeants received notices that they would be downgraded to patrolmen.
The demotions, which take effect May 27, come just two days after Mayor Lorenzo Langford attempted to add six police sergeant titles to the force in an effort to avoid six sergeants from dropping in rank.
The New Jersey Civil Service Commission already approved Langford's plan to demote 15 police officials, including the chief, two deputy chiefs, four captains and eight lieutenants. Those lieutenants would be dropped to sergeants, pushing the number of city sergeants over the threshold of 60 allowable by city ordinance.
The administration presented a measure Wednesday to add six sergeants to the rolls to spare further demotions, but City Council, which is generally agreeable with the mayor, balked at the plan, calling it unfair.
Langford was not in his office Friday afternoon and could not be reached for an interview. Kevin Hall, the mayor's spokesman, said he would reserve comment until he speaks with Langford. However, Hall did not return phone calls later in the day. Business Administrator Michael Scott also declined comment through Hall.
In response to the notices, Davidson said he is considering organizing an effort to recall the mayor.
"We're not dealing with people who are ethical," Davidson said. "We're going to do what we have to do to get the message out."
Davidson's comments have been increasingly sharp toward the administration as the number of police officers being laid off has increased from 20 to 59. The state's Civil Service Commission has approved only the city's plan to lay off 33 city employees, including 20 police officers, and 15 police demotions. However, Davidson claimed an official in the city's Human Resources Department told him the city has license to adjust the layoff and demotion totals after the initial state approval.
The union president has recently made threats to start a public relations campaign against Langford and his proposed cuts, including erecting billboards, circulating fliers and holding news conferences.
Mooney called the demotions "draconian" and "very sad," and voiced frustration about the frequent changes in the city's plans.
"At this point, the day-to-day operations are left in a vacuum," the chief said. "I am not in the loop, and the uncertainty of the actual numbers of the layoffs and demotions, we can't properly plan for the future."
Mooney also claimed the mayor is targeting the Police Department out of personal animosity against him, an allegation he also made Wednesday after hearing of the possible uptick in layoffs to police officers.
"How do you think I feel?" Mooney said Wednesday. "This is all because of me."
However, cuts to law-enforcement budgets have been common throughout the region as various municipalities struggle with financial hardships. Mooney said Langford's alleged hatred of the chief dates to Mooney's late father, former Councilman John J. Mooney Jr., and his endless battles with Mayor James L. Usry.
Others have contended that the department, which carries nearly 100 officers at the rank of sergeant or higher, is top-heavy.
Mooney would not say whether he thought there were too many high-ranking officers, but said if the titles are to be reduced it should be done by attrition.
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