Anti-county police force group had enough signatures but faulty petition forms

Camden residents opposed to a proposed regional police department collected enough signatures on a petition to force a citywide vote on the issue, but the petition itself was found legally deficient, city officials ruled Friday.

The residents’ group — led by Vance Bowman and Ali Sloan El and backed by Fraternal Order of Police President John Williamson — has 10 days to correct the problems and resubmit the petitions.
If approved when resubmitted, city council would consider the amendment first. If council rejects the ordinance change, voters would consider the matter in November.

The Citizens Community Committee for Public Safety collected almost 2,000 valid signatures from registered voters who support slightly rewording the city police ordinance to read: “There is hereby created and maintained in, for and by the City of Camden a Police Department …“

As Williamson sees it, “this preempts any abolishment of the city police department because this says the police departments should be maintained by the people,” he said.

The county police initiative would dissolve the existing department and rehire no more than 49 percent of city officers for the new force. It has been in the works since the summer when Gov. Christie and the Camden County Freeholders started pushing for shared services.

However, some legal experts don't see how the rewording of the city police ordinance would stop the county plan from going through.

Read my story tomorrow for more details.