A former Camden Police Officer found himself in handcuffs on Wednesday, the same day a new police force officially hit the streets.
Governor Chris Christie and several state lawmakers attended a ceremony at Malandra Hall on New Jersey Road to swear in J. Scott Thomson as the new chief of the Camden County Police Department Metro Division, making the police force fully operational. The county-wide Metro Division effectively dissolved the city’s old department of 270 officers.
Camden officials say the change is necessary to fight crime in a city that has had a spike in violence in recent years. Since it was announced however, the change was met by opposition from police union officials and critics who deemed it another way in which the city government is losing control of basic governmental functions.
Several former Camden officers gathered outside Malandra Hall to protest. Those officers were met by new members of the Metro Division who blocked them from going inside, which drew the ire of former officer Melvin Ways.
“It’s important that I attend this meeting so that I hear exactly what is taking place inside,” said Ways. “Even to voice an opinion.”
Ways approached an officer and told him he was trying to get into the ceremony. The officer replied that he wasn’t allowed in however, because the ceremony was not a public event. Ways argued however that he had a right to attend.
“I’ve given 24 years of my life to the Camden City Police Department,” said Ways. “To have everything snatched from me at the end and to not be given a voice or anything is totally improper. I’m trying to attend this meeting.”
The officer repeatedly told Ways that it was not public however and eventually arrested him.
“Do what you got to do,” said Ways. “If you have to arrest me then arrest me. But I’m going to attend this meeting.”
Ways was placed in handcuffs and led into a police car.
“Thank you,” said Ways. “I’m being arrested because I’m a city resident and former police officer trying to attend a meeting and I’m being denied access. I disagree with the way this police department is set up. I don’t know what my charges are but it’s okay, I’m willing to accept it.”
Officials have not yet revealed the specific charges against Ways.
The new police force is currently comprised of 260 officers with the ultimate goal of 400. The force will be funded by Camden's property tax revenue as well as state funds.