Hackensack, NJ - 26 Bergen County Bureau of Police Services Officers were laid off, and another 17 were demoted, effective at 4 PM Monday, June 26. They were notified in an email they received on Sunday night, June 25, according to NJ.com.
19 of those officers are military veterans, according to Chris Weston, president of the officers' union, PBA Local 49. He said that one officer was overseas and "he doesn’t know if he is going to have a job when he gets back from Afghanistan."
John Baker, an 11-year veteran of the agency, served with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq, according to the Hackensack Daily Voice. He said, “I just bought a house. My wife is pregnant", and that he is worried about health insurance. Officer Baker said that his wife is due in July.
Another officer, Dan Sansevere, is an eight-year veteran. He said that he is also worried about his family and said,"We are trying to figure out how we are going to put food in my little girls’ bellies and a roof over their heads right now." His two children are three- and five-years-old.
Several officers made a public but peaceful protest over what had happened, when they walked along River Street from the Bergen County Plaza to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation building to turn in their equipment.
The email gave a deadline of 4 PM on Monday, for officers to turn their equipment in. When the email was sent, some of the officers were on their scheduled days off, and at least one deputy was out of town on vacation.
The officers' union, PBA Local 49, narrowly rejected a plan that would have prevented Sunday's layoff. Instead, the affected officers would have had to be hired as "new" sheriff's officers, take up to $30,000 in pay cuts, and would not be eligible for promotions during that time period.
Weston said that there was no negotiation, that it was "take it or leave it."
In a statement released on Monday, the Bergen County Sheriff's Office said that it had agreed to three delays already.
Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino said, "I've continuously made a promise and commitment to the residents of Bergen County to deliver law enforcement services in the most efficient manner possible without compromising the safety of the officers and the public."
The email came as a surprise. Deputy Gabriel Escobar, who was demoted from sergeant to patrolman said, "We didn't think it was a dead issue." He said that morale had been low among the officers during the process, and along with union members criticized Sheriff Saudino. He added, "Who's to say he's not going to do this again in six months?"
Some union members have said that the layoffs and demotions are some form of political retaliation.
County Executive James Tedesco shut down the Bergen County Police Department more than two years ago in one of his first official acts, and placed it under the Bergen County Sheriff's Office. When that occurred, Sheriff Saudino said that there would not be any layoffs, and that reduction in officers would occur by attrition.
Now Sheriff Saudino has said that 'budget cuts' and 'state mandates' have made the layoffs and demotions to those officers 'necessary.'
Peter Flannery was one of those peacefully protesting outside the BCSO. His two children were with him. He had been laid off after being a patrolman, and after having been trained as a hostage negotiator, and a bomb technician.
Officer Flannery said, "We've been bullied by Sheriff Michael Saudino. It's been a lot of sleepless nights and we're just going to have to go day by day."