Overwhelmed by rising crime and mass police layoffs, the struggling city of Camden, N.J., pledged Tuesday to be the first municipality to join a new county police force intended to be a model for other cash-strapped New Jersey cities and towns, reports the Newark Star-Ledger. The city, which has one of the highest crime rates in the nation, signed an agreement with county and state officials to draft plans for the new Camden County Police Department by Sept. 30. County officials are to coordinate formation of the department, which will then require state approval.
The regional force is likely be the first of its kind in the state. Somerset and Morris Counties are considering similar arrangements. Still, it is unclear if other Camden County communities will volunteer to sign on to the force — and how much police union officials will protest the inevitable layoffs to result — making its future uncertain. Supporters of the regional approach to policing say consolidation will take pressure off local budgets by combining administrative and back-office tasks, and at the same time bolster purchasing power to get better prices on equipment. Edward Brannigan, president of the state Fraternal Order of Police, denounced the plan, saying said he feared officers hired by the county would be paid less and receive fewer benefits.