Police, union leaders and city activists are reacting strongly to a controversial proposal from the city of Camden.
On Tuesday night, city council voted six to one in support of an idea to eliminate Camden’s police department and replace it with a countywide patrol force.
Camden is currently ranked the second most dangerous city in America. Financial trouble forced the city to fire nearly half of its police force earlier this year.
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Supporters of the new proposal say it would double the size of the existing department by hiring officers at lower salaries, according to the Inquirer. But the Fraternal Order of Police believes the plan should be put up for a vote by the people of Camden.
“It’s an all-out assault on police unions,” said Ed Brannigan, the president of the New Jersey FOP. “It’s union busting, plain and simple.”
“This is something that should not be left to a group of people in a room,” said FOP member John Williamson. “This is something that should be done through referendum. We should let the voters, the people who put the elected officials in office, make a decision on why or whether they want a county police force or their own police force.”
Union members along with city activists are circulating a petition that could allow the voters to make that very decision, according to the Inquirer.
The FOP claims that city cops are more familiar with the problems Camden faces and that more officers in the police department would be a better solution than a complete replacement.
“Our stance is that the money that will be spent on a county police force should be reinvested into the infrastructure of the current police department,” said Williamson.
There is no timetable as to when the city could ask the county to take over policing Camden. The FOP says it would like to have the proposal on the ballot for the city’s primary which is coming up in a few months. The Inquirer reports the union plans on collecting 5,000 signatures over the next 30 days to ensure the petition holds up to verification by the city clerk’s office.