Atlantic City police layoff numbers tell two stories about safety, and they don't agree - pressofAtlanticCity.com: News

Atlantic City police layoff numbers tell two stories about safety, and they don't agree - pressofAtlanticCity.com: News

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Atlantic City police layoff numbers tell two stories about safety, and they don't agree

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Posted: Thursday, September 30, 2010 12:30 am | Updated: 10:09 pm, Wed Oct 20, 2010.

ATLANTIC CITY — The proof is in the numbers. It's just a matter of who's counting.

With 40 police officers turning in their guns and badges because of layoffs this morning, Deputy Police Chief Ernest Jubilee said he has reassigned the force so that 75 percent of nonsupervisory officers are on the street. But counting superior officers and those out for disability, vacation or other reasons, only half of the full 288-member department is actually on the street.

The question is: Have budget cuts made the streets unsafe? Jubilee says no. The union disagrees.

"It's funny voodoo math," PBA President David Davidson Jr. said. "It's going to be unsafe no matter how you count it."

Related story: Last-minute efforts fail to avert Atlantic City layoffs; The Press obtains list of targeted city police and fire employees

Jubilee's numbers show that only six fewer officers will be assigned to street patrol starting today than there were Wednesday, when the number was 150. In order to do that, he moved officers from other units, including Narcotics, Forensics, Vice and the Juvenile Bureau.

"Our investigative units have been depleted by the layoffs," Jubilee said. "But patrol is the backbone of the Police Department. That's where we get our work done.

"We also do investigative work, but that's secondary," he said. "That's why it's important to keep the majority of police officers on patrol."

A total of 93 city workers are set to be laid off today, including 40 police officers and 30 firefighters. This is the second round of police layoffs, after 20 officers lost their jobs in June. Another 13 have retired.

Before the first round of layoffs in June, four people had been killed in the city, with arrests made in three of those crimes. Since June 11, eight people have been killed. None has been solved.

Jubilee said he doesn't want "those who would use this information" to think they can come into these areas and get away with crimes. He pointed out that the department has grown over the years, from 292 officers in 2005 to 376 last year.

He said he knows the advantages of having a large department. Years ago, there were substations in six neighborhoods, and block officers met with residents. But now, even a community relations unit started in August couldn't last. The four officers assigned under department spokeswoman Sgt. Monica McMenamin had to be disbanded to help with the layoff loss. But Jubilee still says the city is safe.

"We've been down to 317 officers," he said. "We were there in 2006. We struggled through and got the job done."

But 2006 also saw a spike in homicides, with 18. That's the most in the past five years. In 2007, when the ranks grew to 366, there were six people killed in the city.

"There's always a concern when you have fewer available officers," Jubilee said. "We have to adapt and learn to do more with less."

He led a major redeployment in August, when he said 70 percent of the officers would be on the street. He did not want to say where the police were being assigned, citing safety issues.

But with duty rosters obtained from a few days for various months, The Press of Atlantic City has assembled a snapshot of how things have changed, without giving specifics that could endanger officers in the future.

In January, before any layoffs, there were about 29 officers on the street for the shifts of 4 p.m. to midnight and midnight to 8 p.m. This allowed three officers in District 1, which covers Lower Chelsea, Jackson to Montpelier avenues, along with Chelsea Heights over the Albany Avenue bridge. Four to five officers were assigned to the higher-crime districts that encompass Stanley Holmes and Back Maryland.

The weekend after 20 officers lost their jobs on June 11, coverage of each of those areas shrank by at least one. Then, a Thursday night in September — a month after Jubilee's overhaul — shows six officers were assigned to the Boardwalk between 4 p.m. and midnight, while the two highest-crime areas — Districts 3 and 5 — had that many combined. There was only one officer assigned to District 1, the Chelsea areas — separated by a drawbridge.

"If the calls for service dictate, the captain can make that decision about deployment," Jubilee said, indicating a flexibility to the assignments. "If the captain decides that he needs more officers in a particular area of town, then he can make those adjustments.

"That's not just for crime," he added "If there's a bad accident, you bring people from out of the district to come in to assist."

In the past, the department also brought people from the investigative units to assist with patrol, said Detective Steve Rando, vice president of the PBA. "Now that you've depleted those units, there are less people to pull from."

He found that out three weeks ago while working a detail at a casino nightclub. When a fight broke out and assistance was called, three men showed up - including a shift commander.

"Before, a call for help would have gotten 20 guys," Rando said.

Officers who still have jobs also may find some changes starting today. More than half of the layoffs come from the midnight to 8 a.m. shift, meaning officers who had more premium shifts could get bumped back to overnight duty.

"There are few things that are certain in the police department," Jubilee said. "But you can usually hang your hat on the fact that, if you're in patrol, your shift assignment is based on your seniority."

Rando said that in his 17 years on the department, this is the lowest he's seen morale, but that officers continued to work until the last minute.

"The men and women are still responding to every call," he said. "They're still giving 100 percent."

As most have of done in the layoffs, he blamed Mayor Lorenzo Langford for the problems. Langford left for a trip to China before the final negotiations began last week. Business Administrator Michael Scott was in meetings Wednesday and did not return a call seeking comment.

"No matter what Langford has done to us," Rando said, "one thing he hasn't been able to do is break the spirit of this department."

Contact Lynda Cohen:

609-272-7257

LCohen@pressofac.com

© 2014 pressofAtlanticCity.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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