A LETTER TO N.J. POLICE & FIREFIGHTERS ATTENDING THE TRENTON RALLY: Whatever you do tomorrow, do not hand the governor a weapon to bludgeon you with. Do not give him an opportunity to accuse you of using scare tactics and sensationalism. DO NOT create a mob scene.
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I wouldn’t presume to tell you how to proceed. You’re the pros. But just know, from this average citizen’s perspective: Even in flush times, fires break out, shots are fired, people die.
The cuts being proposed can’t be proven to lead directly to deaths. Having a force of 150,000 doesn’t protect an officer from some low-life rolling up and blasting away.
HOWEVER: The very likelihood exists that, if the bully gets his way and departments are gutted statewide, and not just in the cities, there will be fewer responses to the personal emergencies that citizens encounter every day. And when there actually are responses, it will take much longer for help to arrive. That is the price the citizenry will ultimately pay.
In the end, THAT is what is going to matter most to taxpayers: “HOW IS THIS GOING TO AFFECT ME AND MY FAMILY?”Jerry DeMarco Publisher/Editor
It’s the very reason why the Camden police chief got people’s attention (and I’m paraphrasing):
“Listen, folks, I wish I could do better. But from now on, if you have a car accident and no one gets hurt seriously, come down to the station soon as you can and fill out a report. In fact, bring the witnesses with you… Same for vandalism, minor thefts. You can come down and report them, but there won’t be much we can do, not with all these layoffs. We have to focus on murders and drug dealing.”
Can’t get any deeper into Joe Citizen’s kitchen than that.
Take a moment, please, and consider this:
“What if you called 911 in a panic because your child’s head was stuck in a fence, or you heard a burglar break a downstairs window or you found yourself being followed by a strange man? What if no one could respond right away because your local police department has been gutted and the only unit on the road is busy with another call?
“It’s not something you’d want to consider, is it? We wouldn’t either. Unfortunately, it’s time we all started.
“In fact, we can provide the statistics for the number of calls for each and every municipality in New Jersey. You can then divide that by the number of man hours your town will be left with after your governor is finished slashing and burning. THEN you’ll see what we’re talking about.”
Trust me: Joe Citizen would get the message.
My fear is that the media will stampede to a governor’s press briefing during and/or after the rally to find him shaking head and saying: “It’s pure sensationalism, that’s all. But let me tell you something: The people of New Jersey are too smart for that.”
I pray it doesn’t play out like that. But I know what I know. And I know him.
Again: For what it’s worth. I’m squarely in your corner. That will NEVER change. It’s why I agonized over writing this column. Then again, there are plenty people smarter than me who might say I’m off-base. I can only hope they’re right.
Meantime: Good luck tomorrow.
Just please, please, PLEASE: No mob scene photo ops for the media. No screaming and yelling, edited for TV.
Instead, how about an enormous gathering of public servants organized in rows, paramilitary-style, proud of what they do and able to show remarkable discipline in the face of chaos and fear?
How about an approach that says:
“We are the people who serve and protect you. Despite the lies and false promises, we won’t sink to his level.
“That’s because we weren’t elected to our jobs. We chose them. We are, and will continue to be, professionals.
“When YOU call for help, you want us there right away. And you know what? So do we.
“Don‘t let anyone take that protection away from you.”
I cannot be in Trenton: I’ll be in a college classroom, teaching aspiring reporters how to see through bluster and not get snowed, how to analyze budget documents to find the waste, and how to stand up for the very people who truly deserve our spotlights.
At the same time, I will ask whomever of you is willing to send me a brief report and/or whatever cellphone pics you take during the event, so that I can assemble a “from the trenches” story: GerardJDeMarco@gmail.com. (201.943.2794)
This way, YOU get to tell the story — not the media.
If you want your name left off, tell me and it’s done. If you’re still hinky, create an email address that you can delete afterward (in that case, tell me your rank, years of service and where in NJ you serve).
But please MAKE SURE you send ‘em early and often.
Then we can create our own media campaign.
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