Supporters of a regional police force in New Jersey are pulling together a plan to replace Camden’s police department. Camden Mayor Dana Redd plans to replace more than 250 Camden cops with a new 400-member Camden Metro Division by January.
With Camden on pace to break a record for homicides and shootings this year, advocates of the new police force say something has to change.
“When challenged in an extraordinary way, you have to come up with a bold approach,” says consultant Jose Cordero who’s been hired to develop and implement the new police force.
Cordero said the plan is to hire more officers within about the same budget.
“We want to attract the motivated, committed officers and we have to be competitive in terms of pay — salaries and wages,” he says. “But at the same time, we’re looking at other costs that really inhibit the ability of the city.”
One way the regional force could save money, Cordero said, is by hiring civilians to do work now done by police such as IT work and crime scene investigations.
“If you don’t need a gun and you don’t need a badge to do that job, then you shouldn’t be doing it,” he says. “There are many instances in which it’s really something that’s happened in the past that’s nonviolent, and a civilian can take a report — you don’t need an officer there for 45 minutes.”
Cordero said, so far, the city of Camden is the only member of the regional force. He said Camden’s costs for the Metro Division haven’t been determined.
The economy has prompted many cities to consider similar moves. But relatively few move forward with regionalization and consolidation in the end, says John Firman, the research center director for the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
“Because when departments and governing bodies come to this issue, you basically reveal 10, 20, 30, 40 issues that have to be resolved,” he says. “Sometimes it’s legislative, sometimes it’s statutory, sometimes it’s facilities — that you can’t spend money in one jurisdiction to provide services in another. All kinds and sorts of obstacles come up.”
Firman said transitional costs such as equipment, training, and patches can eat up potential short-term savings.