Bucking the party line on a heated issue, four Republican candidates for the Camden County freeholder board want to wrest control of the Camden police force from the county and give it back to city officials.
In 2013 New Jersey transferred control of the city’s police force to the county, which created the Camden County Police Department’s Metro Division.
“The freeholders continue to say that the Camden Police Department was not doing it’s job, yet they rehired the same police chief [Scott Thomson],” said Republican challenger Ian Gill, an EMT who lives in Mount Ephraim.
“When a football team is doing something bad … they go after the coach,” he said. “At this point, the coach happens to be this police chief.”
Gov. Chris Christie, also a Republican, helped shepherd the change to a county-run force and often touts a decrease in the violent crime rate as evidence the new department has been a success.
“We’ve started to reclaim the streets of Camden for the good, hardworking citizens of Camden,” Christie said at a campaign event in July. “We’ve started to put life back into the community again.”
Through the end of August, murders were at their lowest year-to-date rate in Camden since 2006.
Gill, who called the county-run force a “failed program,” said Christie has not evaluated the new department closely enough.
“[Christie’s] feelings on it is that it’s a success because, you know, he’s looking at it as a bargaining chip for moving into the White House when his term as governor is coming to the end,” Gill said.
On the other side of this debate are the four Democrats up for election.
“The Republicans are obviously not listening to the residents of the city,” said Freeholder Jeffrey Nash.
“Not only statistically is crime significantly lower than it was before the county Metro Division was established,” he said, “but if you hear it from the families who feel safer in their communities, it is a component part of a bigger picture for the revitalization of the city.”
Nash said the county will continue trying to hire Camden residents to become police officers in the future.
Four of seven seats on the Camden County freeholder board are up for election on Tuesday.
Democrats Nash, Jonathan Young Sr., Susan Shin Angulo, and William Moen Jr. will face off against Republican challengers Theodore “Teddy” Liddell, Winston Extavour, Ian Gill, and Rob Stone.
Currently all seven freeholders are Democrats.