The city of Camden has been struggling with a budget deficit for years. In 2011, it was named the poorest city in New Jersey. In an attempt to save millions, its officials decided to get rid of the entire city police force. Instead residents of Camden will have to rely on the new police department, which will be operated by Camden County. And here is the secret for saving money – the new Metro Division of the Camden County police will not have collective bargaining.
“This is a creative way to break a union and break the financial obligations you have to a union,” Scot DeCristofaro, spokesman for the Camden Fraternal Order of Police, told National Public Radio.
Camden city officials say that the transition is necessary to be able to afford the costs of making the city safer.
The city of Camden has more crime than 97 per cent of cities in the US. The city hosts 1,846 violent crimes per year, with an average of 37 murders, 73 rapes, 713 robberies and 1,023 cases of assault. In 2004, Camden was named America’s most dangerous city, taking the title away from Detroit.
“Not too long ago, we [were] considered the worst city in crime in the nation and what do they do? Give up the cops,” said Larry Shaw, who was rallying outside of the police headquarters in protest of the decision. “The cops that are here now are more than just cops. I mean you can talk to them, they know the people and they’re your friends and they protect you.”
To balance its $26 million budget deficit, the city laid off 167 cops in 2011 without having a replacement program in place.
With not enough police and too many major crimes, the police department has largely stopped responding to minor crimes such as car accidents, petty thefts and vandalism.
While Camden city officials hope that the switch to a county patrol unit will give it the means to reduce crime, its 270 laid off cops will struggle to find employment. Less than half can expect to find a job in the county, Fox News reported.
The new, non-unionized county unit is estimated to employ more officers with the same budget, while also risking taking away the notoriously dangerous city’s local police officers who have experience and knowledge of Camden.