Methuen City Councilors are playing games with people’s lives and the safety of police officers and it has to stop.
Last month, City Councilor Steve Saba mounted a successful effort to cut $1.8M out of the city’s police budget. He did this to get even with superior officers for accepting raises in their contract that, supposedly, nobody knew about. He did this, even though the police budget was balanced at the time (even with the raises). And he made those cuts to police while giving MORE money to the schools even though it was the school department who overspends their budget by $4M.
Saba threw childish jabs at the cops and belittled women on the council, even saying during one meeting that if the chief and mayor cannot run the department without the $1.8M that HE cut, they were “incompetent” and “we should find someone else who can.”
The fact is, when layoffs have to be made, captains will be demoted to lieutenant, lieutenants will be demoted to sergeant, sergeants will be demoted to patrolmen, and 30+ patrolmen will have to be laid off. This leaves the people of Methuen with fewer cops to respond when they call for help. Slower response times means more victims of rape, shootings, domestic violence, house breaks, car thefts, etc.
This is reckless and irresponsible as Saba and his colleagues are not punishing the people they are mad at (the superior officers, the chief and the mayor).
The people they are hurting most are citizens of Methuen and the cops who remain on the department after the layoffs: as they will have fewer officers and longer wait times when they call for backup because THEY are the ones being assaulted or being shot at.
On top of all this, (as if this wasn’t bad enough) one of the specific line items Saba and his cohorts on the council cut, was the line item that pays for police protection at the Santa Parade, the Halloween Stroll, and other community events.
The chief warned that those events cannot take place without police protection and cutting those funds could result in canceling those events.
Saba and his colleagues didn’t care.
And when the mayor said he was coming back for an appropriation to pay for these events, Councilor Saba grandstanded, insulted the chief and the mayor, and tried to make it look like THEY were canceling the community events as some kind of political “trick” to “get more money into the police budget”.
Then there was councilor Joyce Campagnone who suggested the police superior officers all “sit on their offices” advising them to get out from behind their desks and “step up” to help out with these local events.
Forgetting of course, that they still have to be paid.
It was a disgraceful display of disrespect for the men and women of the Methuen police who put their lives on the line every single day to protect THEM and their families.
It was truly a low point for Methuen City Council, which, until now had done heroic work to try and fix the funding problems they inherited from the previous administration.
Saba, Campagnone, and the rest who followed, knew what they were doing when they cut police funding for petty political reasons. They know cutting cops will result in victims of violent crime not getting the help they need. And they also know that police officers calling for backup are less likely to get it with 30 less cops on the streets to respond. We hope no officers lose their lives as the result of the council’s political grandstanding.
It is shameful beyond reason.
Yet they don’t care. And now they want to blame Mayor Jajuga and Chief Solomon to deflect from their own reckless actions. Mayor Jajuga is not the bad guy here, neither are the chief, the patrolmen, or the public.
The blame lays squarely with Steve Saba and his colleagues.
This is not an abstract political issue. This is life and death.
Steve Saba and his colleagues on the city council are playing with fire, and when police officers or members of the public get hurt or killed as the result of their actions, the blood of those victims will be on their hands.