Camden to join new county police force

CAMDEN - August 3, 2011

The city is bringing in less money in taxes, approximately $26-million, than the city is spending, $164 million.

"The current system is fiscally unsustainable. How this is different is we're exploring different ways to deal with our fiscal challenges," Camden City Attorney Mark Riondino said.

Accordingly, Camden pledged to be the first municipality to join a new county police force.

In an agreement with county and state officials, former Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney, a nationally recognized expert on public safety, has been hired as consultant to help design and implement the countywide police force.

"It has to enhance public safety, it has to be cost effective and it has to be fair to the existing employees," Riondino said.

By phone from Miami today, Timoney, whose faced big challenges while helping run the New York Police Department then the Philadelphia police and later the Miami police departments, says he's excited about this new challenge.

He says in part, 'Hopefully, we can devise a model that will provide better police service for the city of Camden and Camden County. If we get this right, and I think we will, this could be the model for others that find themselves in the same situation.'

Riondino says there's a distinct possibility that all 275 officers in Camden's current police force could be laid off in preparation for the new county force.

"It could lead to the Camden Police Department being dissolved and a new entity being formed," Riondino said.

Under federal law, only 49% of the officers in each town could be rehired to join the county force. Who would hire the remaining officers remains unclear.

The police union is not happy about these developments.

Meanwhile, Timoney says he'll arrive in Camden next week to begin his new job.

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