STAFFORD TOWNSHIP - Police union officials are expecting a large turnout at tonight's Township Council meeting in a show of support for five police officers who face being laid off at the end of the month.

Stuart Alterman, attorney for Policemen's Benevolent Association Local 297, said he is expecting a crowd.

A group of officers attending the swearing-in ceremony of Lt. Michael Caputo as Tuckerton's new police chief Monday evening indicated they would be there.

The PBA has distributed about 20 posters to local businesses in an attempt to drum up support and to ask the public to attend.

Joseph Rulli, owner of Joey's Pizza and Pasta on Route 72, hung a poster in the restaurant's dining room.

"A lot of the police officers come in here for lunch, and you get to know them by name and become friendly with them. We've been in business here since 1994 and have been big supporters of the Police Department," Rulli said.

He said he does not want to see a 21-year veteran officer like Keith Oler, 41, lose his job.

Stafford is proposing to layoff Oler and four other officers to help close a $2 million budget gap. Laying off the five officers is projected to save $600,000, Township Administrator James Moran said last week.

The township of 26,282 residents has 57 police officers.

Other communities, including Galloway Township and Egg Harbor Township in Atlantic County, also have moved forward with layoffs. In Wildwood, Cape May County, officials have notified 40 employees - nearly 20 percent of their work force - that their jobs may be cut.

The Stafford Township Council meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

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