Can Camden’s Community Policing Serve As A National Model?


In 2012, crime was so bad and money so tight in Camden, N.J., that officials took the dramatic step of scrapping their 141-year-old police department and replacing it with a new, county-based force focused on putting cops on the street and building better relations with residents. Nearly two years later, President Obama hailed the nascent Camden County Police Department yesterday as a national success story, a model for other departments to emulate as cities grapple with increasingly stormy relations between cops and the minority neighborhoods they police, reports the Christian Science Monitor. “Just a few years ago, this city was written off as dangerous beyond redemption, a city trapped in a downward spiral,” the president said. “Parents were afraid to let their children play outside, drug dealers operated in broad daylight, there weren't enough cops to patrol the streets, so two years ago the police department was overhauled to implement a new model of community policing.”

“There's a clear recognition that police need to reengage and redouble their efforts and working with the community,” says Darrel Stephens of the Major Cities Chiefs, a professional association of police executives. “Once we got Ferguson, New York, and Cleveland and all the others – that's why we're seeing the emphasis on change.” Still, community policing isn’t a cure-all. “When you start getting into places like West Baltimore or neighborhoods in the Bronx, and they have been dysfunctional for generations, you can't just say, now we're going to do community policing and everything will be better,” says Edward Connors of the Institute for Law and Justice in Williamsburg, Va. “You can't just sweep in community policing if the schools are bad, if there are no jobs.”

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