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ON EVE OF RALLY, IMMINENT POLICE LAYOFFS DENIED

There are no immediate plans to lay off Buffalo police officers despite a message from the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association asking its members to join in a rally Thursday outside Buffalo City Hall to take a stand against possible job cuts.

Lt. Robert P. Meegan Jr., PBA president, urged police officers to attend the noon rally in response to concern over a statement by Council Majority Leader Rosemarie LoTempio earlier this week.

At a meeting with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., Mayor Anthony M. Masiello, other Council leaders, school officials and business leaders, LoTempio said at some future date the city might have to consider cuts in the police and fire budgets.

"If the city does not receive the necessary dollars that have been requested in additional state aid or help from the federal government, the city could be faced with overall layoffs, including the Police Department," LoTempio said Tuesday in recalling her remarks made at Monday's meeting.

She said the comments do not pertain to the immediate future and were only speculative in considering a "worst-case scenario."

Meegan, in a bulletin to the city's approximately 920 police officers, stated he and other union officers "were informed that due to the city's financial condition, layoffs of police officers may well be imminent."

Police administrators echoed LoTempio's sentiments that there are no immediate plans for police layoffs.

Meegan said his bulletin was prompted out of concern for police officers and citizens.

"I'm extremely concerned about the safety of police officers in the event of any layoffs, and I think that citizens should also be concerned not only for officer safety, but for themselves with delayed response times, inadequate backup and security at crime scenes," Meegan said.

In issuing the memo, he added that he was responding to Buffalo Common Council President James W. Pitts' invitation for the police union to participate in citywide rally protesting city and state layoffs.

LoTempio said that she mentioned both the budgets of the Police and Fire departments because they make up more than a third of the city's overall $301 million fiscal plan. The police budget is $72.3 million and the Fire Department budget is $57 million.

"That's why I'm looking at those budgets," she said, but again stressing that cuts would only be seriously considered if there was no additional state aid or assistance from federal government.

e-mail: lmichel@buffnews.com

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