Camden police keeps signing up new patrol clients

As I reported Sunday, Camden’s police overtime costs are surging this year, in part, as the result of a “secondary employment contract” requiring city police to patrol special events at the Susquehanna Bank Center. But the center is only one of dozens of city entities with such a contract.

The police department’s deployment flexibility has made it appealing to many businesses in the city, including the so-called Eds and Meds. Cooper University Hospital, for example, switched earlier this year from using the Camden County Sheriff’s Department for patrol to contracting with the city’s police department.

“Changing over to city police provided is the ability to have 24-hour coverage and more officers,” Cooper Hospital spokeswoman Lori Shaffer said.

Cooper’s contract with the Sheriff’s Office was for the use of two officers for a maximum of eight hours five days a week. Now Cooper has at least one police vehicle patrolling 24/7 and two walking beats between 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m.

The sheriff’s contract had an interesting line: “It is understood that the officers assigned are volunteers and that there will be times when no coverage is available.” The city’s contract has no such clause; instead, officers are assigned to work the Cooper shifts no matter what.

There is some discrepancy, though, on how officers are assigned to patrol the Cooper Hospital area. Deputy Chief Michael Lynch says it’s the same situation as Susquehanna: Officers volunteer to patrol Cooper when they are off-duty. But my colleague, Darran Simon, spoke to several police officers who say some detectives had been told to work the Cooper shifts during their normal work day.

In addition to Cooper Hospital contracting the city police to patrol the Health and Sciences campus, Rowan University hired the city to patrol 24/7 around the new Cooper University Medical School of Rowan University. The cost, which is expected to be $900,000 annually, will be shared by Rowan and Cooper, said Rowan University spokesman Joe Cardona. Though Rowan University has its own armed police force, Cardona said Rowan could not patrol the medical school because anything outside of the building is city police jurisdiction.

Camden County also signed a new contract with the city this year to have one police officer patrol the Ferry Avenue branch library.