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Mon Nov 19, 2012, 06:12 AM

Chris Christie Pushes Camden Police Force To Disband, Despite Questions Over New Plan's Finances

As residents decry the violence, local leaders are readying a radical plan that they call the only practical solution at hand to calm the streets: the dismantling of the Camden Police Department and the outsourcing of policing to a new, cheaper force run by the county government, to be called the Camden Metro Division. They say the closure of the 141-year-old department and the creation of a new agency is necessary because the existing union-negotiated police contract is no longer sustainable in a time of deep budget deficits.
The plan was sold to Camden residents as a security fix: by firing the existing police force, they were told, millions of savings would be redirected into hiring about 130 new uniformed officers -- a 50 percent increase over current staffing.

"It's time to reject the status quo and ramp this police department up to a level that it needs," Thomas Capelli, director of the Camden County Board of Freeholders, which would control the metro agency, tells The Huffington Post.

City and county leaders approved the plan last year, and it cleared major legal hurdles this summer, opening the way for full implementation. Applications are being accepted for the new force, and training for the first group of hires will begin in November, according to Dan Keashen, a county spokesman. As early as next March, the old police department will be shut down for good. Other Camden County cities have been invited to join the new department, but none have shown interest yet.

On the surface, the shift to a county-run force resembles efforts in other cities around the country to save money by merging departments and regionalizing police services. But several experts say there are few specific parallels with the Camden plan, which involves a densely populated, high-crime city, and will not include any actual merger between police departments.

"I don't know that this has been done before," says Louis Tuthill, a criminal justice professor at Rutgers University. "I have never heard of it."

Some see the move to shut down the Camden Police Department and shift to a cheaper county-run model as a frontal attack on public safety unions. They warn the same strategy may soon be used to extract concessions from cops and firefighters across New Jersey, and ultimately the country.

"This is not a policing strategy. This is something more sinister," says Eugene O'Donnell, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. "Every cop in America should worry about what's happening in Camden."

Backing the plan are Camden's mayor and six of seven city council members -- all Democrats -- together with the Democratic-controlled Camden County Board of Freeholders, which represents the county's 400,000 residents. Those involved say New Jersey's Republican Gov. Chris Christie has also been a crucial force behind the proposal. In interviews and town hall meetings over the past two years, Christie has repeatedly denounced the Camden police contract as "obscene" and described the county police plan as a common-sense measure to bring down public safety costs during tough economic times.

"The taxpayers of New Jersey aren't going pay any more for Camden's excesses," Christie said in a 2011 interview on MSNBC, as the police plan began gathering steam.

Originally posted: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/19/chris-christie-camden-police_n_2025372.html

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Reply Chris Christie Pushes Camden Police Force To Disband, Despite Questions Over New Plan's Finances (Original post)
geefloyd46 Nov 2012 OP
panAmerican Nov 2012 #1

Response to geefloyd46 (Original post)

Mon Nov 19, 2012, 08:36 AM

1. Camden has an inadequate tax base

The first problem that should be addressed is increasing at the police presence first. Unless the current crime statistics can start being reversed, people and businesses will not want to move into Camden, and thereby supply the tax base that can support good benefits for the police department.

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