To the editor:

To the editor:

As president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Capital City Lodge No. 9, I represent the police officers of the Gahanna Division of Police. In his Aug. 4 column, Gahanna Council member John McAlister refers to the FOP as "the real 800-pound gorilla in city finances."

I am extremely proud of our Gahanna police officers and I believe that pride is shared by the citizens of Gahanna. Characterizing the FOP as McAlister has done is not only disrespectful to our Gahanna officers and their families, but it is also a remarkably stupid characterization.

McAlister appears to be complaining about the salaries and benefits paid to Gahanna police officers.

While he defends his own salary for his part-time work as a council member ("I won't work for free, and I don't think other competent people do"), he says that the FOP is holding the taxpayers hostage, apparently because we have the right to engage in collective bargaining concerning the wages which will be paid and the benefits which will be received by Gahanna police officers.

This hostage claim makes no sense. McAlister offers no factual support for this claim. In fact, there is none. What the FOP seeks for Gahanna officers is what McAllister seeks for himself, namely, proper compensation for the work which they do. There is no question that there is stress upon Gahanna's finances. This is a stress which is shared by many communities. No one can seriously state that this stress is caused by police officers who provide excellent services to their citizens. The vast majority of Gahanna's income comes from income tax revenues, which have dropped in Gahanna as elsewhere. What is not mentioned by McAlister is that Gahanna's income tax rate is 1.5-percent, a rate well below Columbus and many other suburban communities in Franklin County.

Columbus and other communities, such as Grandview, Westerville and Worthington, have sought and received voter approval to adequately fund their city services, including their police forces. None of these communities have had to suffer police layoffs.

McAlister somehow suggests that the solution may be to lay off Gahanna police fficers. He seems to believe that the suffering that this would cause will help solve the problem of overpaid police officers. This is utter nonsense. Gahanna police officers are not overpaid when one looks at the salaries and benefits paid to police officers in comparable jurisdictions in Franklin County. I firmly believe that no wage or benefit package can adequately compensate our Gahanna police officers for being prepared to lay down their lives in the service to their community.

What McAlister does not say is that the real suffering from police layoffs would be to the citizens of Gahanna who would lose vital police services. There is no doubt in my mind that if police officers are laid off, this community will become easy prey for criminals intent upon bringing harm to individuals, families and children who live and work in Gahanna.

McAlister's "800-pound gorilla" has nothing to do with the FOP or Gahanna police officers. The gorilla is a figment of McAlister's imagination. As FOP president, I will do everything in my power to both protect the best interests of our police officers as well as promote excellent police services for the citizens of Gahanna.

Jim Gilbert

Lodge President