Camden, N.J., plans police switch

Sept. 29, 2012 at 1:37 PM
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CAMDEN, N.J., Sept. 29 (UPI) -- Camden, N.J., one of the country's poorest and most violent cities, plans to shut down its police department and replace it with a county force.

Officials say the change will put more police on the street, The New York Times reported. The non-unionized county officers will be paid less and Camden will be able to end leave policies so generous that on many days almost one-third of the department is on sick leave or family leave.

The city budgets $55 million a year for police out of total expenditures of $167 million. Property taxes bring in only $21 million, with money from the state making up the balance.

"There's no alternative, there's no Plan B," City Council President Frank Moran said. "It's the only option we have."

Under the plan, officers assigned to the city will form a separate 400-strong division of the Camden County police. The current police chief, J. Scott Thomson, is expected to head the new force.

A police union has gone to court to try to stop the plan. Layoffs of the existing 273 officers are scheduled to begin in November.

Camden, across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, was once a thriving port and industrial city. In recent years, development schemes have brought a baseball stadium, entertainment complex, aquarium and some luxury housing to the waterfront, but decay still affects the rest of the city.

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