By Desirée Taylor
Questions remain as to how many of Camden’s current 270 officers will be rehired to join the new county police force. Initially county officials claimed they could only rehire 49 percent in order to avoid having to comply with the terms of the union contract. But negotiations with the union could change that amount says Jose Cordero, the architect of the plan to create Camden’s new metro division.
“We’re hopeful some agreement will be reached so we can hire many qualified police officers to staff this department,” said Cordero. “We think that’s a win for all.”
The state civil service commission cleared the way for Camden County to start hiring about 400 officers, the majority of whom will be on the streets according to county officials. In order to expedite the hiring process, the new officers won’t have to take the civil service test. But civil service protections will begin a year later. Still, union officials say this waiver sets a bad precedent.
“To waive any of civil service requirements puts you on slippery slope,” said Camden Fraternal Order of Police John Williamson.
So far no other municipalities have plans to join the county force. The city of Camden will foot the bill, which is estimated to be around $65 million — the same amount as the current police budget. But the metro division will have an additional 130 officers. County officials say they’re able to do this by eliminating fringe benefits and by adding more than 100 civilians.
With 54 homicides in Camden so far this year — on pace to break a previous record of 58 — residents are hoping a solution is found soon. But they have mixed opinions about whether the new county force will be able to stop the violence.