Camden, N.J., is replacing its current 230-officer police force with a new, cheaper force of 400 in order to combat rising crime, according to NPR.
The city currently spends 75 percent of its budget on police and fire departments but it remains one of the nation’s most dangerous cities.
The police cannot keep up with crime and the city cannot afford to hire more officers. As a result, NPR reports,
it’s dissolving its municipal police force and letting the county set up a bigger, cheaper force to replace it.
Camden officials say it’s the only affordable way to bring down crime, but critics call the strategy a deliberate move to bust the police union.
Collective bargaining with the police union over the years has led to a well-paid but understaffed force.
Police Chief Scott Thomson told NPR the current force cannot even respond to all the 911 calls in the city.
Jose Cordero, who is helping design the new force, told NPR he has never seen a police contract with so many benefits.
This nearly broke city will get 130 additional police officers with the same money it’s spending now — about $65 million — by dumping the most expensive fringe benefits.
Mayor Dana Redd says the county will try to hire back as many current Camden cops as it can. But if it hires more than half of them, the old contract has to remain in place — and no one can afford that contract anymore.
For far too long, she says, the city signed police contracts it couldn’t afford because saying “no” to the police union never felt like an option.