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Salem Community Patriot April 8, 2011 - 3

The Word Around Town... Letters to our Editor

In My Opinion... Supporting Those

by Michael Verrocchi Who Serve Your Community

by Michael Verrocchi, Vice President, Salem Police Relief, NEPBA Local 022 Well, it’s that time of year again. No, not the time of year when the days are getting longer and

flowers are blooming, but the time of year public employee salaries make print, which are highlighted in newspaper articles. The time of year that townspeople become outraged at how much those same people who have dedicated their lives to ensure a better quality of life for those they serve are chastised. “How can a police officer or firefighter make that much money?” “Why do they have so many benefits?” These are the types of ill-spoken words we hear on a daily basis, as we strap on our bulletproof vests and don a gun and badge, to ensure people sleep soundly at night while their property is well protected. I can just hear the conversations now: Officer so-and-so made $100,000 this year doing nothing but

driving around in his cruiser sipping coffee. Well, guess what—Officer so-and-so may very well have made that money, but after serving in law enforcement since 2001, I can tell you he earned every penny. I am not going to waste my time or yours in this article, standing on a soapbox to tell you how hard we work or what we do on a daily basis for the town and the people we serve. You have all heard those stories many times in the past and shown us that most of you do not care. I see you drive by me as I stand out there on a detail, either flashing me a look of disgust or better yet saluting me with one finger, yet you wonder why police officers never smile. Little do you know that same person standing in the road directing traffic is on a day off; a day that he or she is not spending with family or friends; a day that he or she cannot participate in leisurely activities like most of you do during your time away from work. That officer is out there working on his/her time off trying to make ends meet because most of our salaries are in the high 30s to low 40s. Most in the private sector would not even get out of bed for the salaries we make. That officer is a

father, mother, recent college grad, sole provider, etc., and a taxpayer, like everyone else. So those details we work are considered our second job. Furthermore, we are not entitled to Social Security and rely on our pensions to aid us through the golden years. It is sad that we must work 70-80 hours a week and do so quietly just to earn the same amount as a professional in the private sector does based on a 40-hour work week.

I went to Malden Catholic High School and did well. From there, I graduated from Northeastern

University and earned a bachelor’s degree. My parents came to the United States from Italy back in the day, without a penny in their pocket. They worked hard for what they have and brought my sister and I up the best they could. They instilled in me the value of hard work and I now work for the town of Salem, where my hourly rate, after serving here for nearly three years, is $21.37 per hour. That hourly rate equals a take-home pay of just under $600 after deductions. Prior to Salem, I worked for the town of Hampton, where my hourly rate was $17.33 per hour. Most of you sitting there reading this article are probably thinking, “Nobody told you to take the job!”—a statement that I hear much too often. Well, you’re right, but who are you to fault me for the profession that I have chosen, or, better yet, look down at me for what I have earned with my own blood, sweat, and tears? Remember, if it weren’t for men and women like me sacrificing our lives for you, I can assure you that

you would not be able to read your paper in the morning with your cup of coffee in hand, knowing that help is only a telephone call away. During my tenure as a police officer, other than a step raise once I transferred to Salem, I have never received a raise or a cost-of-living increase, nor have I ever had a contract. Still, today, my union is without a new contract, but you never heard us complain or cry to the newspapers when the economy was doing fine and people in the private sector were receiving bonuses that surpassed my salary. Why aren’t I entitled to pursue the American dream like the rest of you? Why should I be punished just because I pursued a career in Law Enforcement? If any of you have been watching current news in the State of New Hampshire lately, you will see that we are under fire not only in city/town government, but also at the state level. We are in jeopardy of having our pensions severely altered and losing our collective bargaining rights, thanks to the likes of those in the House of Representatives, such as Neil Kurk, and in the Senate, such as Jeb Bradley. This year, we have been made out to be public enemies rather than hard-working, middle-class people. Funny, it was just 10 years ago we were being touted as heroes due to that unfortunate event known as September 11, 2001. Now, we are viewed as a bunch of do-nothing, uneducated thieves who feed off of the public trough.

As police officers, we are trained to deal with many situations where our lives may end on a whim, but personally, I have not been trained to deal with being portrayed as a “bad guy.” I am human and have feelings like the rest of you. Right now, my morale is down in the dumps next to my salary and potentially my pension. All for a career that is proven to raise blood pressure substantially, brings health issues and possibly death to the forefront, forces us to work weekends, takes us away from family and friends and, most of all, eats away at who we are as a person. Every day that I leave roll call and start on my tour in my sector, I feel as though I am being punished for my chosen career path. Not only do I have to use my free time to work details and try to make ends meet, now I have to use my earned vacation time to travel up to Concord and fight for what I was told I would be given come retirement. How many of you can say you do the same with your earned time off? In closing, I would like to leave you all with some facts. For the residents in the town of Salem, who

believe we earn too much money, over the past couple of years our Police Chief’s salary ranked eighth out of eight in comparison to police chiefs in municipalities similar to ours. Our Deputy Chief’s salary ranked seventh out of seven; Captain, five out of six; Lieutenants, sixth out of eight; Sergeants, seventh out of eight; Patrol Officers, fourth out of eight; and Dispatchers, eighth out of eight. Our calls for service were more than most of the municipalities involved in the survey, meaning our agency was ranked as one of the busiest. Furthermore, the police department alone, over the past several years, generated over $650,000 for the town of Salem from details that police officers worked. As you can see, we are one of the lowest paid agencies, but we also generated a large amount of money for the town, which was used for different purposes. This is money that is used to help offset costs to the taxpayers. The figures printed in the newspapers are our total compensation for the year, which should not be confused with our base salaries. Those figures are presented to you without factoring in the hours worked per week by each officer. Furthermore, those figures include wages earned via details, court time, and/or overtime that an officer had to work to ensure the staffing necessary to efficiently patrol the town. You should be proud of the people who serve your communities and support them instead of viewing them as problem children. I know I can say wholeheartedly that I serve the town of Salem alongside some of the finest men and women I have ever met.

In My Opinion is strictly an OP-ED column that stands on the opinion of one writer, Michael Verrocchi, as opposed to a newspaper reporter who does not provide an opinion, but reports the facts. This column, in many instances, is a counterpoint to published stories and does not reflect the unbiased reporting policy of the Salem Community Patriot or the opinion of the management, advertisers, and ownership of Area News Group.

An Open Letter to Bishop McCormack

Bishop McCormack, I wanted to take a moment to write to you regarding my comments made yesterday that were directed at you.

Upon humble reflection, the characterization

of my feelings towards your leadership as bishop was at best undiplomatic and a better choice of words was both warranted and appropriate. I pride myself on “calling it as I see it” and standing strong for the things that I believe in. But in this case my frank words detracted from my genuine sentiment, one which is shared by many Catholics


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in New Hampshire and across the country. All too often, we express the greatest degree of raw emotion when we are hurt, such was the case here.

My comments emanated from the deep hurt brought forward by the damage caused by the sex abuse scandal that engulfed our church, which has resulted in thousands turning their back on the church, particularly for those of my generation. Unfortunately, your role in that scandal has, in my opinion, hurt the Church in ways that will take decades to repair. As a practicing Catholic myself, I cannot

separate your involvement in what has been the darkest period in our Church’s recent history. While ultimately the Lord will judge each of us, many people judge our faith by our leaders and I feel that it why a large number have left the Church. For many Catholics, your presence as Bishop is an ongoing reminder of an evil that was perpetrated on those most vulnerable and innocent. I came of age in the faith during the height of the sexual abuse scandal and when many were walking away from the church, I remained. I stayed in the belief that the Christian faith and our Church were more than the few individuals who betrayed one of the greatest trusts a man can be given—that of a priest. Some have suggested that it is time to move on from that hurt,

but for many of us this is simply not quite so easy. My comments were in no way were intended as an attack on the Catholic faith, the Church, or on the position which you hold. I remain a committed member of our church and am proud to be so. They also had nothing to do with your message of caring for those else fortunate than ourselves. My comments reflected my feeling toward someone who, in his position, played such a prominent role in a terribly dark chapter in the history of the Catholic Church. I encourage all citizens who wish to come to the State House and have their voice be heard to do so, regardless of whether I agree or disagree with their message. But to be criticized for failing to protect those who are “vulnerable” by someone with your own history of protecting the vulnerable was more than I could stomach. It reignited all the feelings that I have worked to control in seeing that damage to the Church that this scandal created. I have been dismayed by the criticisms that the House budget shows a disregard for the poor or disadvantaged when in reality the Finance Committee and many in the House of Representatives poured their hearts out to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society were not disproportionately hurt by our work to have the state live within its means.

continued on page 5


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