METHUEN, MA (WBZ-AM) — The City of Methuen has begun the process of laying off 50 officers and 3 K9 officers from its police force over a long debate over budget disputes, contracts and pay raises Thursday.
Layoff notices were handed out to officers as they arrived for their 4 o'clock shift change.
Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon took to Facebook expressing his disappointment calling the move by the city is a “debilitating blow to public safety not only in Methuen but the entire Merrimack Valley,”
Solomon tells WBZ NewsRadio late Thursday that the police force will be reduced to just 44 officers and all pro-active policing will end in the City.
“All pro-active policing once the layoffs happen will end,” he said. “We will simply be able to man 9-1-1 calls and I don’t even know if we’ll be able to man all of those [the calls],” he said.
Solomon says that he is frustrated at the entire situation claiming there no reason for this lay off personnel.
“There is no reason for it, it’s not a financial crisis it’s what’s so frustrating it’s pure political posturing and I am hoping that The Governor or someone at the State level prevents it from occurring,” he said.
City Councilors cut the police budget because they think the agreed upon pay raises for ranking officers are too high.
Earlier this week mayor James Jajuga asked the city council to restore the $1.8 million it cut from the police budget last summer which was placed in the city’s general fund.
Jajuga stepped back from this—his son is a police officer and this was negotiated under a previous administration.
In addition, two other city councilors were unable to vote due to conflicts of interests. The funding resolution requires a majority of six of the nine councilors.
In order to prevent the city from deficit spending - which is illegal in Massachusetts for anything other than snow removal - officials say the layoffs needed to happen in order to keep the books balanced.
However, Jajuga chief of staff Paul Fahey tells WBZ NewsRadio’s Karyn Regal the layoffs could cost money. It is believed that the city could run out of money to pay for the department in March.
According to The Eagle-Tribune of Andover, Under protections from the Civil Service Commission, the officers will continue to work and receive pay until they have each had an individual hearing with the commission, tentatively scheduled to begin in early February and that it is estimated that patrolmen will actually leave the job starting the second week of that month.
WBZ NewsRadio's Suzanne Sausville spoke to Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)