Camden, N.J., Mayor Dana Redd submitted a plan yesterday to the state Civil Service Commission to lay off the city’s entire police force, paving the way for a controversial Camden County-run department and potentially setting up a legal battle with police unions, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The firing would be the second mass layoff in two years of officers in a city that has seen a record 61 homicides so far this year and is perennially ranked among the nation’s most dangerous.
In January 2011, Redd laid off 168 officers – nearly half the force then – because of a $26 million city budget deficit, but many were later rehired. If the plan is accepted by the commission, notices would go out to the 267 uniformed police officers on Jan. 10 and they would be laid off between Feb. 24 and May 10. Some of the laid-off officers are expected to be hired onto the new force. Once operational, the county force is expected to number around 400, 130 more than on the present city force. “We can begin the process of ramping up a police force that will have the resources to take back the streets of Camden City from the criminals and the gangs,” said Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr. County officials have not released a detailed plan for the county-run force, but say it is the only way to improve public safety in the city.