Crime-plagued Camden, N.J., already beset by police layoffs, will begin terminating its remaining 273 officers and give control to a new county force, the New York Times. The move will free up millions to hire a larger, nonunionized force of 400 officers to safeguard the city, the nation's poorest. Camden's decision to remake one of its most essential public services underscores how communities are taking previously unimaginable steps to get out from under longstanding union obligations.
The plan to put Camden’s police department out of business has not prompted the wide public outcry seen in union battles in Chicago, Ohio, or Wisconsin. Many residents resent a police force they see as incompetent, corrupt, and doing little to make their streets safe. A police union has sued to stop the move, saying it is risking public safety on an “unproven” idea. Residents, community groups, and elected officials say the city is simply out of money, out of options, out of patience.