Union leaders critical of Camden move to countywide police force sent out on patrol

    Despite the strong opposition of its police union, the City of Camden is moving forward with a plan to replace its current police force with a new countywide unit.

    In the meantime, those squawking the loudest about losing jobs are being sent — maybe for the last time — to patrol the streets.

    The city of Camden is going to lay off all 268 of its uniformed police officers and abolish the Camden Police Department.

    They will be replaced with a 400-member force under the control of Camden County, hired under terms less expensive than the current contract.

    Camden’s police union hates the idea.

    John Williamson, president of Camden’s Fraternal Order of Police, says his opposition to the plan has made him a target.

    Camden Mayor Dana Redd said Wednesday that she wants to end paid leave time for police and fire union representatives such as Williamson and get them back on the streets.

    “I think that is a clear retaliatory act based on the fact that we are in opposition to the county metro force,” said Williamson. “We have spoken out against the mayor and the police administration, and I think it’s an attempt to silence us.”

    Redd says it’s a matter of utilizing all resources for the city’s good.

    “I’m very concerned with what’s happening in the city with gang violence and we need everyone to help to curb and stem the tides of violence,” said Redd. “And so all authorized law enforcement personnel, including the union leaders, need to be deployed to help to keep the citizens safe.”

    Thirty-nine people have been killed in Camden so far this year — 12 more than this time last year.

    Redd plans to have the county force implemented no later than New Year’s Day, 2013.

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