Tonight’s Camden council meeting was wall-to-wall packed with city residents and dozens of police-union representatives from all over the state and Philadelphia in support of maintaining a Camden police force.
Although council was not scheduled to vote on an ordinance or resolution related to the proposed Camden County police force, people came out to state their overwhelmingly negative opinions of the plan (or lack of a plan).
At last week’s meeting, Mayor Dana L. Redd announced she would submit a police layoff plan to the state by the end of the month. Camden officers could get layoff notices by the fall and Camden's roughly 270 officers could serve their last day on the job by the end of the year. Less than half of existing officers would be allowed to join what is being called the Camden Metro Police Division, projected to number close to 400 officers.
After a rally this afternoon outside City Hall on Tuesday, about 200 people filed into council chambers bearing signs that read “We demand respect for Camden” and “Public servants not public slaves.” It was standing-room-only with many of the union members from Atlantic City and Philadelphia lined along the back and sides of the council chambers.
The boisterous crowd grew even rowdier when council members went into closed session to discuss personnel matters.
“No peace without Camden police,” yelled one woman.
“You protect us and we are here to protect you,” Camden native and current Pennsauken resident Juan R. Rodriguez yelled at uniformed officers who were working the city hall security detail. One officer smiled back.
Once council members and most department heads, including Police Chief Scott Thomson, came back from closed session, council president Frank Moran asked that the public be allowed to speak before council voted on its resolutions for the night. While residents and other attendees, spoke and yelled, Thomson looked down at his cell phone and council agenda, making some notes.
Camden resident Felix Mouliere asked council president Frank Moran a series of questions related to the county police force, including how much it would actually cost.
“That has not come to council,” Moran responded, adding that it has yet to receive a full plan for the force.
My story last week has some details on what Camden is expecting to spend for this fiscal year (ending June 30, 2013) in police services. Click HERE to read.