Methuen Police Layoffs a ‘Debilitating Blow to Public Safety,’ Says Chief Solomon

(Courtesy of the Methuen Police Department.)

Chief Joseph E. Solomon deemed the potential layoffs “a debilitating blow to public safety.” (Courtesy file photograph)

More than half of Methuen’s police force is expected to receive a pink slip in the coming weeks as a contentious debate over law enforcement salaries continues, Chief Joseph E. Solomon said Thursday.

Over the last several months, Methuen’s superior officers’ union—one of two in the city—have disputed contract negotiations with the City Council and Mayor James P. Jajuga’s office. As a result, the police department has been stripped of an estimated $1.8 million, The Boston Globe reported.

“(Thursday was) a very sad day in Methuen and a debilitating blow to public safety,” Solomon said in a statement issued on social media, confirming 50 of his officers—including three K-9 teams—could lose their jobs March 1 if funding is not restored to the police department budget.

Officers impacted are expected to take part in civil service hearings next month, the Globe said, with an independent arbitrator having authority to reverse layoffs for “lack of just cause.”

According to Solomon, the department’s patrol division would be the hardest hit. The drug and traffic units, school resource officers, community-based programs would also be eliminated.

Over the summer, the police captains, lieutenants and sergeants that comprise the superior officers’ union petitioned the city to honor a contract Jajuga’s office inherited that would find captains earning more than $400,000 annually. Jajuga’s office worked out a new contract in which captains could make $180,000 including benefits. When that contract wasn’t approved by the City Council, the Council also yanked nearly $2 million from the police budget for this fiscal year, resulting in the current crisis.

The money was put into a reserve account and if the money is not returned to the police budget, layoffs will commence, Jajuga’s Chief of Staff Paul Fahey said.