Philadelphia’s former top cop to help Camden with regional force

A former Philadelphia police commissioner will be back in the area later this month to start a new job. The Camden County Board of Freeholders is bringing John Timoney, now working as a consultant, on board to help design and implement a countywide police force.

After stints as the top cop in Philly, New York City, and Miami, Timoney will help Camden County officials figure out the organizational structure and staffing for a county-wide police force.

“Other parts of New Jersey have looked at it, parts of New York, here in Florida, out West,” Timoney said. “I guess, given the tough economic times, the notion behind all this is can you provide an equal or better police service–a more efficient and effective police service–at the same cost or maybe even cheaper?”

Timoney says homicide, SWAT and the Special Victims Unit are possible candidates for a shared-services plan.

“On the support side, you could think of purchasing–cars, a whole host of things–where you’ve gotta get economies of scale if you’re doing it in bulk as opposed to individual police departments doing it themselves,” Timoney said.

In the 1990s, Timoney worked to consolidate the New York City Police Department with that city’s transit and housing police departments. He said he knows there are opponents,

“What you’re looking to do is make sure you deliver a better police service, but also you take into consideration that police officers – men and women – their livelihoods are at stake also,” Timoney said. “So there are a variety of stakeholders, not just the residents.”

Timoney says if nearby communities see the regionalized police force as successful, they may decide to join.

Cherry Hill is not interested

Cherry Hill will not be among them, said Dan Keashen, a spokesman for Mayor Bernie Platt.

“His focus, his priorities, they’re set on Cherry Hill Police patrolling Cherry Hill streets. The mayor knows that people move to this town because it is and will continue to be a safe place to live,” said Keashen. “That’s not to say it wouldn’t be under a regionalized format, I think the mayor just is more focused on the infrastructure here.”

The Cherry Hill Township council recently agreed to expand its shared-service and co-operative purchasing agreements with Camden County’s Department of Public Works–to now include equipment and manpower.

But Keashen said Cherry Hill residents like having easy access to their police department.

“There’s not a whole lot of specifics on what would happen in a regionalized department and how much access they would have to their law enforcement,” he said. “It’s not to say that regionalization wouldn’t be a good thing for other towns.”

Like … Camden?

The poverty and crime-stricken city has rehired just about half of the more than 150 police officers it laid off earlier this year because of budget problems.

“Any plan would have to ensure that public safety is enhanced and it’s cost effective,” said Marc Riondino, the city attorney for Camden. “Governments are faced with resources that are shrinking and we need to come up with creative ways to deal with this and sharing resources is a way to reduce cost.”

Riondino said details, including how to deal with union contracts, and what Camden would contribute, are still not settled.

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