As reported by nj.com, Mayor Dana Redd announced the city of Camden will lay off its entire police force in order to make way for a county-wide police department. Camden’s 270 police officers could receive their layoff notices by the end of the year. According to officials, the county police force would include a new Camden Metro Police Division, with 400 officers. Current plans would permit no more than half of the city’s 270 officers to be hired for the new division.
“I commend the mayor for taking a bold step toward improving public safety with a Camden County police force,” said Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli. “This may be the boldest action ever taken by a mayor of Camden in order to protect the residents of the city.” According to Cappelli, Camden is the only municipality to show interest in joining a county-wide police department as soon as possible. He stated others have “expressed interest,” but added he could not say which municipalities were interested.
The cost of policing Camden currently stands at approximately $60 million for the year. Camden County officials are expected to make an announcement regarding the hiring of county-wide police officers late next week. Field training for the officers will begin soon after that. Under the plan, current Camden Police Chief Scott Thompson would be placed in command of the metro division.
Police union leaders, on the other hand, are lambasting the plan, arguing it will eliminate seasoned officers and replace them with new recruits, putting residents at risk. John Williamson, president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Camden, which represents 230 of the city’s police officers, said the union is exploring all options in order to fight the layoff plan.
“It’s a sad day that we have to go through this again,” said Williamson. “We’re not going to just sit back while this happens; we’re looking at all legal options.” To Williamson, a new county-wide department would mean officers who are unfamiliar with the city, its culture, and its people. He added the move could jeopardize response times and community outreach.
“They’re talking about getting rid of a 141 year old agency for a brand new, unproved entity,” he said. “What they’re essentially doing is running an experiment with public safety, and they’re experimenting with people’s lives.”