ATLANTIC CITY - Deputy Chief Ernest Jubilee welcomed back 17 laid-off police officers Wednesday morning.
"Your return is special to the department because we really missed you while you were away," Jubilee told the group gathered in council chambers.
The 17 were sworn in by Mayor Lorenzo Langford before signing their oaths and then heading to the firing range to get recertified so their guns could be returned. They will have more training today, then should be back on the streets Friday, Jubilee said.
The city laid off a total of 60 officers this year, including 40 on Sept. 30. Two months later, 17 returned under an agreement between the administration and police union that will have each of the city's now-300 officers give back $410 to cover one month of salaries and benefits. The city has also promised $1 million more toward that next year.
The benefits begin right away, Personnel Director Karen Upshaw told the returning officers.
"It's really good to see you all back," she said. "Be safe."
Langford called the process of layoffs and trying to get the officers back "painful" but said that - despite what some people believe - he respects the police and the work they do.
"I value the service you give to this city," he said. "I hope like hell we never find ourselves in that situation to have to do that again."
But, Langford said he felt everyone needed to give something to help the budget, he said, adding that he took nine furlough days totaling $4,000.
PBA President Dave Davidson Jr. - whose son remains laid off - lauded the way the officers handled the layoffs.
"You guys have represented yourselves admirably," he said. "We're just beginning."
"It really is a good start," Jubilee said later.
He added that he believes a lot more of the officers will return under the part of the agreement that guarantees the seniority list will be used to fill openings, such as those from retirements.
Public Safety Director Christine Petersen sat through the brief ceremony but did not address the officers.
When asked if she had any comment, she said, "I'm glad they're back," before rushing out of council chambers.