Dozens of people rallied in Camden Tuesday to protest Mayor Dana Redd’s plan to dismantle the city’s police department and replace it with a regional force. Protesters gathered at the Fraternal Order of Police headquarters to oppose the mass layoffs of more than 250 Camden cops.
Waving signs reading “We demand respect for Camden” and “Union busting is disgusting,” protesters talked about what the regionalized force would be mean for the city.
Larry Shaw, who has lived in Camden for decades, is outraged.
“Not too long ago we was considered the worst city in crime in the nation and what do they do? Take down the fences, in my opinion! Give up the cops!” he said. “And the cops that are here now are more than just cops. I mean you can talk to them, they know the people and they’re your friends and they protect you.”
Redd has said the move toward a 400-member Camden Metro Division by the end of the year will improve safety in Camden.
But Shaw, like others in the crowd, said he doubts the new force of police will do as well as the current police force. And, he says, those police assigned to the city will be angry they have to work in Camden.
Longtime Camden resident Eulisis Delgado also opposes the Mayor’s plan.”The problem is, she wants to bring these outsiders. The county police officers don’t understand our culture, do not know our communities. These officers we have in here they understand us,they’re great officers in the city of Camden. I stand by our police department.”
Opponents of the regionalization plan believe it will result in poor service, higher costs and a less effective police department.
“This is not just union-busting, this is public safety-busting,” said Scot DeCristofaro of the Camden FOP. “This is a creative way to break a union and break the financial obligations you have to a union.”
Only about half of the police laid off in Camden will be eligible to join the regional force.