It's official: Camden lays off 25% of workforce

CAMDEN, N.J. - December 2, 2010

While it is not a surprise, the layoffs were still hard to swallow for the police officers, firefighters and others who will soon be handed their pink slips.

In fact, the layoffs include nearly half of the police department.

At a meeting of city council, speaker after speaker pleaded with members not to approve the layoffs.

"The peace that is starting to happen in North Camden and other parts of the city is going to be taken from us," said resident Joshua Lopez.

There was obvious frustration and predicted the end of any hope for saving Camden once the cuts take effect in 45 days.

"January 18, 2011 will be the worst day in Camden since the 1971 riots," said Council 10 Union President Karl Walko.

Non-uniform workers already work four days a week with a 20% pay cut, but the loss of 180 police officers and 67 firefighters has residents especially fearful.

"By laying off officers, by laying off firefighters... It's an insult to every one of us," said Officer Maria Rivera.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you have less firefighters on the street you'll have slower response times," said Camden firefighters union president Al Ashley.

Before the vote, the council president blamed Gov. Chris Christie for not giving Camden more money. The city received $69 million, but still has a $26.5 million dollar deficit.

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