Several members of the Jersey City Police Department eviscerated Mayor Steven Fulop over the recent contract settlement of the Police Officers Benevolent Association, accusing him of playing politics and taking the easy way out.
Police Officer Louis DeStefano said the men and women of the department get shot at every night and demanded to know â€œwhat is the price of our blood?â€
“What is the price of our blood? What is it? I hate to use this, I hate to use this. I was there that night after the shooting. This man put his life on the line for you and this city and he’s being desecrated,” exclaimed an angry DeStefano, holding up two newspapers that had the death of Officer Melvin Santiago on the cover.
“The mayor and director Shea had the nerve to go up and honor that building in his name and then they turn around and do that to us with this contract?”
Earlier this month, a state arbitrator settled the contract negotiations between the city and the JCPOBA, with the city getting the vast majority of their demand, with the mayor stating “the taxpayers prevailed” due to the money being saved.
Obviously, the police officers saw the settlement a different way, with a lot of unrest over the fact they will not get the raises and benefits they were expect in the next few yearsing.
Jersey City POBA President Carmine Disbrow pointed out that the department still doesnâ€™t have a chief, which he expected since the mayor is busy running for re-election.
“There is still no chief in this police department but that’s okay, as long as Mayor Fulop doesn’t have to make an important decision while he’s running for re-election,” Disbrow began.
“Last week, our city suffered a tragic loss of two young men when they were hit by a speeding car. When I spoke at the last council meeting, I mentioned the dire effect of Mayor Fulop’s decision to disband the motorcycle squad. But we can’t discuss this in a meaningful way, we have no chief.”
Disbrow also held up a single piece of paper that he said was the offer Fulop gave the union, a clear indicator that he was never serious about negotiating in good faith.
Additionally, Officer Ramon Aponte, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, said in this situation, Fulop did not show the characteristics of a leader or a Marine.
“This is not the actions of a leader and is also not the actions of a person who calls themselves a United States Marine. I know because I am a Marine and I served over 14 years in the United States Marine Corps,” began Aponte.
“By the way, there are many here like me tonight and today. I am urging you to plead with the mayor and consider the consequences that may arise if this contract remains.”
Officer David Wiggan explained that he left a good paying private sector job to join the JCPD, which now doesnâ€™t offer the same incentives they did when he started.
“Being paid a decent salary, while having good medical benefits, while doing what you love in serving the residents of Jersey City is my version of the American Dream – but that was then and this is now,” said Wiggan.
“Now I will be forced to do the same work for what amounts to lower pay in order to meet my family’s financial obligations. I’ll be forced to work harder, and longer, more than I have ever imagined, because I’ll be stuck at $37,000 for the next 2.5 years,” which he added equals a monthly net pay of just $1,728.
The feud between Fulop and the JCPOBA has been well-documented in recent weeks, with the union protesting a $500 a plate fundraiser for the mayor last month.
Fulop hit back the next day, revealing figures that indicate crime is down without a police chief and shooting down a claim that a controversial fiery crash on June 4th is what caused contract negotiations to break down.
The city council took no formal action on the matter at last night’s meeting and a city spokeswoman did not return an email seeking comment.
How can the “taxpayer prevail” by cutting funds to the police budget when at the same time the city is giving 30-year tax abatements to multimillion real estate corporations? Is the city in a such dÃ©ficit that our uniformed men have to be hamstrung and yet every square inch of vacant land in Jersey City is being built on?
The mayor is capitalizing significantly on the fact that 250 cops from mostly minority backgrounds have been hired. Yet, for the first time in the history of the JCPD, these mostly Hispanic, black, and female officers are making less in comparison to the older generation of cops that came before.