Camden Cop Cut May Be “Catastrophic”-Police Expert


In the first week after layoffs cut the Camden, N.J., Police Department nearly in half, predictions of doom and gloom and outlaws running wild in the streets have remained just that – predictions, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. Experts say there's no way a city like Camden can avoid feeling the impact of the massive layoffs, which also included about one-third of the city's firefighters. “You can't police the same way you did with half the police force,” said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum, a think tank in Washington, D.C. “There is no department that I know of [facing the kind of crime in Camden] that has lost half of their police force.”

Said Prof. Maki Haberfeld of John Jay College of Criminal Justice: “There is always a need to have some sort of balance between reactive and proactive policing,” but “when you're losing that many officers [] this balance goes out the window.” So far, there has been no uptick in assaults, shootings, or the other mayhem that have branded Camden a city on the brink. “For a reasonable-sized city, this is one of the most catastrophic law enforcement stories in the country,” said Eugene O'Donnell, a professor of law and police studies at John Jay College. The Camden police reduction brings the city, with a 78,000 population, closer to the national average of 2.1 police officers per 1,000 residents, said John Firman of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Firman and others said using that ratio as a standard was simply playing a numbers game and avoiding the reality of police work. “Staffing has to be based on three things,” he said. “What's your mission, and what is needed to ensure public safety and officers' safety.” Those factors vary by municipality, and trying to establish a common ratio is foolhardy, he said.


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