Camden’s mayor Dana Redd is calling for a new county police force — the Camden Metro Police Division. The new formation means the city’s police force will get pink slips.
Said Redd, “as a part of the trigger, we have to file a layoff plan of the law enforcement personal with Camden PD in order to begin to shift that personal over the new metro division.”
The plan calls for the hiring of over 400 police officers. The mayor hopes the force will eventually grow and the city is working with Camden County on a shared service agreement. But critics argue it will only hurt a community struggling daily with violent, often fatal crime.
There have been 39 homicides in Camden so far this year. This past July saw one of the most violent months on record — 13 people were murdered.
Camden’s Fraternal Order of Police President John Willamson says this isn’t the time to eliminate the entire police force and implement a new system.
“They’re not telling the public the cons about the fact of dropping two, three hundred new people into a city where they’re not familiar with the area, they’re not familiar with the people, the different races, cultures and creeds in the city,” said Williamson. “So not only are you creating an issue for the residents, you’re also creating a safety issue for the officers.”
The mayor shot back at Williamson, saying “the information he is giving out is quite frankly is a disservice to the residents and is a disservice to his membership.”
Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Capelli, Jr. says he commends the mayor for doing what he calls a difficult of thing. He estimates dismantling the police force will ultimately save the city millions of dollars.
“Some of the existing Camden police officers will be laid off, some will be rehired by the county police force. The bottom line is the city cannot afford its current collective bargaining agreement and put enough officers on the street to patrol the streets. Under the county police force, we will make the contract much [more] affordable to the county taxpayers and we will be able to place hundreds of more officers onto the streets of Camden City.”
Promising to “take the streets back,” Capelli says the new plan’s impact is going to be immediate, citing the presence of walking beat police officers which Camden hasn’t seen in decades.
Meanwhile Union President Williamson said he is meeting with their lawyers to examine their options, insisting Camden’s police officers will continue to fight to protect and serve the city.
Reporting from Camden, Lauren Wanko files this report.