It’s finally official. On April 30, the entire Camden Police Department will be dismantled and replaced, placing 267 uniformed personnel on the chopping block.
“You’re talking about eliminating an entire police department of experienced, seasoned officers for a new, upstart, unproven agency,” said John Williamson of the Camden Police Officers Union.
The New Jersey Civil Service Commission approved the city’s layoff plan on Wednesday. The plan will replace the current police department with a countywide force. Yet while the plan will put more boots on the ground, not all residents are comfortable with the city’s decision.
“I understand that we have 200 and something cops now and they’re going to increase it to 400 and something,” said Hope Edwards-Perry of Camden. “But how well do these people that they’re hiring know our city?”
“Why not keep the cops and add on?” asked one resident. “Why couldn’t it be an addition?”
Elvis Placencia, a Camden Grocery store owner, tells NBC10 that he’s built a strong relationship with many Camden Police offices in the 17 years he’s been in business.
“They always come here and check on us,” said Placencia. “I feel comfortable with them. Now I’m worried. Last year we had a record number of homicides. What’s going to happen now? I feel like we’re going to be on our own.”
Camden Mayor Dana Redd stated the following in a statement released on Wednesday:
We cannot sit back and allow our children and families to experience another 2012. We have an opportunity to improve public safety by bringing back community policing and adding more law enforcement officers to patrol our neighborhoods.
“If you’re truly concerned about the public and public safety, come back to the table,” said Williamson.
Less than 50 percent of the 267 officers who will be laid off in April will be rehired when the new police force goes into effect, according to officials.