The day after suggesting that New Haven residents bear arms to protect themselves and their property because of police layoffs, hundreds of officers marched to city hall and blocked Church Street, demanding to talk to Mayor John DeStefano about his decision to lay off 16 officers.
Sixteen officers were laid off on Thursday morning for budgetary reasons. The city has been faced with some difficult budget-making decisions, the mayor's office said. There is a $5.5 million budget gap for the city.
Police union officials held a closed-door meeting with DeStefano, asking him to allow the 16 officers to stay on the job for another two months to give them a chance to find work in other towns or cities. But after mulling it over, the Mayor turned down that request and told the officers they would have to hand in their guns and badges Thursday, union officials said.
DeStefano said this is an expenditure problem, not a revenue problem.
“It’s a poor choice, but it’s the only choice we have by the rules we have to play by,” DeStefano said. "It is a hard and challenging day for people affected," he later added.
“Public safety is very paramount and we are not going to jeopardize ourselves. The people of New Haven are going to have to start arming themselves, defend themselves and do whatever they can to protect their property and themselves," Louis Cavalier told the New Haven Register on Wednesday.
He called the layoffs a "disgusting embarrassment" and predicts longer response times and a more dangerous city because of the budget-driven layoffs.
Those let go were the most recently hired and are worried about how they are going to provide for their families.
DeStefano said the city had 450 officers and the cuts bring the size on the force to 434, which is on par with the size of the department in recent years. Over the years, the city has had as few as 384 officers, the mayor said.
DeStefano called the implication that residents are in greater danger and should arm themselves "inaccurate and irresponsible."
In addition to the 16 police officers, DeStefano said the city is laying off 66 other city workers, including teachers, crossing guards and administrators.
Kristin Barber, the assistant coordinator of disability services, arrived at her office in City Hall on Thursday morning only to hear that she would be laid off after nearly 10 years. She was three months shy of her anniversary.
Not only was the news that she was being laid off a shock, but Barber said she worries about the dozens of disabled clients who won't be able to receive the same attention she provided.
With Barber's departure, there's one person left in the office, she said, and she was doing the job of three people before being let go.
"I think it's a slap in the face to people with disabilities," Barber said. "It's not like there's five people and they just got rid of one. ... There's not going to be anyone there for people with disabilities when they walk into the city."
Barber most recently spearheaded a project that provided affordable taxi cab service for New Haven residents with disabilities.