Iraq deployments hit NJ police departments

May 22, 2008 3:05:03 PM PDT
With local law enforcement officers from New Jersey being deployed to help fight in the war in Iraq, it's raising concerns at home. Some are wondering if it will impact your safety. As many as 200 New Jersey officers will be deployed this fall as part of the state's largest combat mobilization of military reservists since World War II. It affects police departments statewide.

The Star-Ledger reports that the officers are either soldiers in an Army National Guard combat brigade that drills from armories across the state or belong to a Marine Reserve infantry company based in Morris County. The two units have more than 3,000 troops in all, according to the newspaper.

Members of the armed services are usually prominent in police stations, but the Star-Ledger reports that law enforcement agencies across the state have seen a dramatic uptick in the number of applicants with a military background since 9/11.

"In the past, we always had a few veterans on our civil service list," Chief Warrant Officer Michael Barbieri, of the Middlesex County Sheriff's Office, told the paper. "Now, this war has generated so many citizen soldiers, we never get past the veterans on the civil service list."

Three Middlesex officers have reportedly deployed and returned in the past year. The new deployments will leave the department short four more officers.

"Four people for us is a hardship," Barbieri told the newspaper. "I'm not working at a surplus. I'm already in the hole, working on a shoe string. And that's not to mention that these people who are leaving are people we know, care about and dread getting a phone call about...The war is really hitting hard for us."

State law enforcement agencies of all size will feel the strain.

"Even the loss of one officer at a small department is a cause for concern," New Jersey Association of Chiefs of Police spokesman Roman Ray Martinyiuk told the Star-Ledger. "It's a hit on a department, it's a hit on the chief, and it's a hit on the officers who are not deployed."

Officials say the departments will rely on overtime, as well as mutual aid from neighboring agencies, to cover scheduling gaps and handle emergencies.