Democratic County Executive candidate Jim McGettigan?s criticism of the accidental release of a wrong inmate at the County Justice Facility has brought a harsh response from correction professionals. In a joint letter signed by Lt. Joseph Bondiskey and Sgt Richard Trout on behalf of FOP Lodge 112, the two men state that “For James McGettigan to suggest that the Atlantic County Jail is not ?staffed by professional law enforcement officers? is a slap in the face to every hard working man and woman wearing a corrections officer?s uniform.” They also demand an apology from the Sheriff for his remarks that they believe are politically motivated.
Their letter was written in response to an October 27 article in The Press in which Sheriff McGettigan blamed County Executive Dennis Levinson for the improper release of an inmate.
The men acknowledge that mistakes were made but questioned why McGettigan would blame Levinson for this. “What we know,” they write, “is under Dennis Levinson and his administration we have been provided with the leadership, resources and support to facilitate a very difficult job at the County Jail. The Correction Officers of our Department are consummate professionals and duly sworn law enforcement officers, Academy trained and Police Training Commission certified.”
They were joined in their call for an apology by FOP Lodge 34 President George Herbert and their labor consultant, Myron Plotkin. Herbert noted that FOP 34 has not endorsed a candidate in the County Executive election and remains neutral. However, they took offense to McGettigan?s comments. “We believe a retraction and apology should be forthcoming from Mr. McGettigan and we can only wait to see if he is man enough to step up to the plate and admit his error.”
Atlantic County Corrections Officer Bruce Carber said that he was “insulted” by McGettigan?s comments. “He states that his officers put their lives on the line every while doing their jobs. Does this mean that Correction Officers do not? I once had an inmate spit in my face. I find Jim McGettigan?s comments even more offensive than that,” Carber said.
Warden Gary Merline expressed similar comments. “The sheriff is fully aware that all security officers of the Justice Facility are required to take the Corrections Officers training, similar to police and Sheriff?s Officers, but with a concentration in jail management.,” Merline said. “I have dealt with the Sheriff and his staff as the Director of the Atlantic County Justice Facility for the past eight years. At no time has he ever complained to me about the ability or professionalism of our staff. They have a very difficult job to do. It is unfortunate that he has tried to make them into a political issue.”
County Executive Dennis Levinson took McGettigan?s recent accusations in stride and expressed his continued support for the County?s correction staff whom he says has one of the most difficult jobs imaginable. “The public has finally seen the real Jim McGettigan. His honesty and competence have all come under question. His false and pathetic accusations against me and other county professional staff have backfired.”