The mayor of Camden says the transition from a city police department to a county police force should be finished by the spring.
Meanwhile, city police officers are threatening to sue.
Camden Mayor Dana Redd says going from a city to a countywide police force will mean more officers fighting crime while spending the same money. She says that’s possible because the new force won’t be subject to expensive requirements of the current union contract.
The goal is to sort through the 300 job applicants who want to be part of the new force and any current officers who choose to apply, then begin hiring in January. After the new officers receive eight weeks of training and field work, Camden would start phasing out the city department.
“Our force is being tested by the criminal element,” Redd said Friday. “If we want to reclaim our city, we need to do so immediately. Tat’s why I’ve made the decision to move forward.”
Camden County freeholder director Lou Cappelli says there are two open-air drug markets for each officer patrolling the city.
“Currently there are about 265 police officers in Camden city and about 90 of them are on the streets of Camden,” he said. “After we ramp up our force, we will have 401 officers. Over 300 will be assigned to patrol the streets of Camden.”
Camden Fraternal Order of Police head John Williamson says the union will sue.
“This is the first step to making an already bad situation in the city worse. The crime conditions are already out of control here in the city,” Williamson said. “Looking to lay off the entire police department and start a new one going into the summer months is a recipe for disaster.”
Camden, which already has set a record for the number of homicides this year, is routinely listed as one of the most dangerous cities in the nation.