Camden prepares to lay off entire police force

CAMDEN, N.J. - August 8, 2012

Mayor Dana Redd says by the end of the month the city will submit to the state its plan to layoff Camden's 270 police officers and dismantle the entire department by the end of the year.

It will be replaced by a county-run regional police force that will put a minimum of 400 officers on the streets of this troubled city.

"It'll put more boots on the ground pure and simple, patrolling the neighborhoods, out in the community, helping us to fight crime and leverage our resources," Mayor Redd said.

The mayor says the extra help is needed.

Crime has spiked here recently, over 39 murders already this year.

The city will pay Camden County to hire, train and operate the new force, but less than half of the recruits will come from the current Camden Police Force.

The police union is fighting the dismantling of the department, saying you can't police Camden the same way you do Cherry Hill or other suburbs.

Camden FOP president John Williamson also says the plan to train new cops on the job is a dangerous experiment.

"When you're talking about the second most dangerous city in America, you just don't drop people in and let them learn as you go," Williamson said.

The county has already heard from 1,200 people interested in applying and officials predict soon more towns will move toward regionalizing law enforcement.

Camden mayor sends police union heads to streets

Meanwhile, Mayor Redd is telling officials in the police unions that they have to return to crime-fighting duties.

The officers have long been on paid leave to handle their union roles.

But Mayor Redd on Wednesday said they're needed back on the streets as homicide numbers rise and absenteeism on the department approaches 30 percent.

The mayor is also sending fire department union leaders back to their jobs.

Redd says the union leaders have complained that members are overworked.

But the heads of both rank-and-file and superior officers' unions tell The Courier-Post of Cherry Hill they believe the mayor's orders are retaliation for their efforts to block the plan to dismantle the city police force and replace it with a county-run department.

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