One of Most Dangerous Cities in US Plans to Ditch Police Force

Andrew Mach, MSNBC, August 30, 2012

One of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. is getting rid of its police department.

Amid what they call a “public safety crisis,” officials in Camden, N.J., plan to disband the city’s 141-year-old police department and replace it with a non-union division of the Camden County Police.

Camden city officials have touted the move as necessary to combat the city’s growing financial and safety problems. The entire 267-member police department will be laid off and replaced with a newly reformatted metro division, which is projected to have some 400 members. It will serve only the city of Camden starting in early 2013.

“It’s not a money-saver, it’s living within the budget you’ve got to get more boots on the ground,” Camden County spokesperson Joyce Gabriel told NBC News. “There has been an uptick in violence this year, and the city decided to go with the county’s police department.”


Given Camden’s exceptionally high rate of violence (the city recorded this year’s 41st homicide earlier this month), city police officers in danger of being laid off say the transition is risky at best.

“We’re concerned, we’re definitely concerned,” Camden Fraternal Order of Police President John Williamson told NBC News. “You’re going to create a police department and staff it with people who are unfamiliar with the city and say, ‘Go ahead and fight crime.’ That’s a recipe for disaster.”

Afflicted by homelessness, drug trafficking, prostitution, robbery and violence, Camden has consistently ranked high among the top 10 most dangerous cities in the U.S. since 1998, according to Morgan Quitno Press, a research firm that compiles statistical data on cities. In 2010, Camden had the highest crime rate in the U.S., with 2,333 violent crimes per 100,000 people, more than five times the national average.


Layoffs of the city’s police force will begin by the end of the month, according to the mayor’s office. County officials said that at most 49 percent of the city’s police officers, based on an application process, will be transferred to the new county division under the plan.

Gabriel said the terms of contract for current officers of the city’s police department, which include longevity bonuses, day-shift differentials and other costs, make it too expensive to transfer all of them to the new force, so the rest of the Metro Division will be staffed by new hires. {snip}

The new division, to be fully funded by the city of Camden and the state of New Jersey, will begin field training on the streets as early as October for a period of 17 to 19 weeks.


[Editor’s Note: Camden County is 60.3% white, 18.5% black, and 14.2% Hispanic. Camden City is 4.9% white, 44.3% black, and 47% Hispanic.]


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