Kelly Walsifer has a wedding planner and cake topper she will never get to use.
She has memories of her four short years with her fiancé, Lakewood Police Officer Christopher Matlosz, who was gunned down January 14 in broad daylight and in the line of duty.
Walsifer had a message to deliver to the Statehouse Monday: Don’t even contemplate laying off police officers.
Walsifer brought emotional, tear-filled testimony Monday to the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee and issued a warning that officers and the public will increasingly be at risk if state budget problems continue to lead to the layoffs of police personnel.
Jim Ryan, spokesman for the state Policemen’s Benevolent Association, said outside of the committee hearing room that there are 3,000 fewer officers in the state now than a year ago while the homicide rate has increased 15 percent.
Lakewood is a 120-member department that recently averted the loss of five officers by consolidating health insurance plans to save $850,000, and according to Ryan, officers are more than willing to work with municipalities to avert layoffs.
“Chris was my best friend, my world, my life and I never could have imagined living it without him,” Walsifer told the committee as her mother and stepfather flanked her.
She said that she thought Matlosz would be safer because he had recently switched to day shift, but that when she received a text message about the shooting she knew it was Matlosz who had been shot.
“No one told me it was him, but I knew the whole time. I felt a warmth come over me,” she told the committee as she re-read her eulogy for him. “Chris whispered in my ear, and told me he loved me and he told me everything was going to be okay and he would love me forever.’’
Meanwhile, Newark Detective Jim Stewart testified that although Mayor Cory Booker has said publicly that the city won’t miss a beat, “You cannot take our youngest, most aggressive cops away and think you are not going to miss a beat.”
Stewart said in one 2-month period following layoffs in Newark, December 2010 and January 2011, murders increased 50 percent, car-jackings rose 400 percent, and robberies jumped 38 percent compared to the same time frame from the previous year.
“The thought of laying off cops makes me sick to my stomach,” Walsifer told the committee. “These gangs throughout the country are comparable to terrorists. They do not have a heart or a soul.”