Camden Mayor Fights Crime by Sacking City Police Dept

Listen to Camden Mayor Dana Redd's interview with Brian Lehrer about the public safety plans for her city above. The interview was conducted at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

Faced with the highest crime rate in the country, Camden Mayor Dana Redd is planning to replace the city’s unionized police force at the end of the month with a “Metro Division” of the Camden County Police Department.

Speaking on The Brian Lehrer Show, Redd said the plan will “put over 400 boots on the ground, and [hire] additional staff so we can leverage and expand public safety so we can keep out city safe.”

Redd said that compared with 2008, this year the city has had 47 homicides so far, many involving young children. This week alone, a 6-year-old boy was killed and his 12-year-old sister critically wounded when a man allegedly high on PCP-laced marijuana stabbed them while they slept.

In January 2011, the Camden City Police Department had to lay off 168 officers, and while the city did receive federal funds to rehire those officers, “it still isn’t enough to keep the city safe,” Redd said.

The “layoff and replace” plan has been criticized by the city’s police union as “union-busting.”

“This plan, this takeover, of the Camden Police Department is ill-conceived, baseless in fact, and has nothing to do with the safety of the people of Camden," said Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1 President John Williamson said in a statement last week. “We intend to fight, and take our message to the community, until there is a legislative plan that properly addresses crime in this city."

Mayor Redd said it isn’t about union busting but public safety. “We’re working with the union leadership and trying to get them to negotiate with the county,” she said.  “The city has made a decision, and I’ve made a decision quite frankly, that this is the way to go.”

The city of Camden has struggled with public safety for years. The police department, which currently has just under 270 officers, was taken over by the state in 2005, a takeover that is set to expire this year.