Camden County is trying to recoup about $166,000 in police training costs, after many of its officers quit the force to take jobs elsewhere in the state.
A New Jersey law provides for police departments to be reimbursed for training costs when an officer leaves the force within two years. The police department that hired the officer away is on the hook for the costs.
In 2013 Camden City switched over to a county-run force, a move local officials say led to a drop in violent crime. But despite the purported strides made by law enforcement, Camden has apparently struggled to retain new officers.
Since the switchover, officers have left to take positions in at least 30 other departments (including some college and university forces) for a variety of reasons, according to Camden County freeholder director Lou Cappelli.
“I think at this point we are hiring more than any other police department in the state of New Jersey, so we’re attracting a lot of young officers, many of whom are not from Camden County,” he said.
He noted that many of those jobs also pay more than positions on the Camden force.
Cappelli also blamed outdated civil service rules that keep police officers on statewide lists circulated for open positions even after they’ve been hired.
“This is how crazy it is — at our last freeholder meeting, we had seven officers transfer from the police department to our sheriff’s department,” Cappelli said.
“So that’s something that we’re hoping to get changed.”
The county filed suit against some towns that did not immediately pony up for the training costs of their new hires. Most have agreed to reimburse the county, but Deptford is refusing to pay and Asbury Park has not yet replied to the suit, according to county spokesman Dan Keashen.
So far the county has recovered about $100,000, which Cappelli said will go right back into police officer training.