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Protesters Picket Closed-Door Meeting on Camden Metro Police

Mayors from several Camden County towns endured jeers and taunts from the crowd of 75-plus while denying entry to a delegation of police chiefs.

Waving signs that read “WE DEMAND RESPECT FOR CAMDEN” and “PUBLIC SERVANTS NOT PUBLIC SLAVES,” some 75 picketers gathered outside the Camden County Boathouse Tuesday evening to protest a closed-door meeting of several local mayors on the subject of .

Chanting “Sell-out” as each successive attendee arrived, the crowd cheered when a passing car or truck honked in support, and heckled the building through bullhorns for nearly two solid hours. Among those coordinating the opposition were Camden City residents, police and firefighters from throughout the county, and their families.

To a person, they expressed nearly the same concerns—that details of the reorganization plan were a secret; that the whole affair was a back-door union-busting tactic; and that it was merely a first step designed to pave the way for other local police forces to be dissolved in favor of a countywide system.

‘It starts in Camden City and spreads outward’

John Gregor, vice-president of the Camden County Fraternal Order of Police (F.O.P.) Lodge 76, said that without some explanation of the mechanics of the reorganization, officers and their families were anxiously drawing their own conclusions.

“The only thing we can base this on is the disbanding of the Woodlynne police department five or six years ago,” Gregor said.

When that happened, he said, policing duties for the Woodlynne borough were subcontracted out to Collingswood for a few years. Then, when Woodlynne reformed its own police force in 2010, he said, officers there were re-hired more cheaply because there was no union contract in place.

“The concern is that it starts in Camden City and spreads outward,” Gregor said.

Despite Gregor said such guarantees are meaningless.

“Where’s his plan to prove it?” Gregor said.

He theorized that the true cost of county policing would reveal itself years later in the form of higher taxes and the withdrawal of state financial aid for towns that don’t join the county force.

“It costs every household in Audubon $600 for its own police department,” Gregor said, “but in two years they’ll be paying outrageous taxes to pay for Camden City.” 

‘We’ve asked to be a part of the solution’

Joseph Eisenhardt, chief of the Barrington Police Department and third vice-president of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police, led a contingent of his fellow chiefs to the door of the meeting, but was turned aside. He said he hadn’t expected anything different.

A year ago, when the initial rumblings of the metro division plan were first felt, the association withdrew from the process, he said, snubbed by an offer of one seat on its planning board when the group had asked for four. These are the kinds of broad political power plays by which the process has been defined.

Without the expertise of local senior police leadership, Eisenhardt said, any newly formed division is doomed to failure.

“I’ll have 31 years on the job [as Barrington chief] at the end of this month,” Eisenhardt said. “The last mayor I worked for was 12 when I took this job. If they have a question about the police department, they talk to me.”

Eisenhardt pointed out that he and a number of the chiefs that were gathered with him had accrued enough years to simply leave the discussion to the politicians, if they so chose. They didn’t, he said, because they believe it would be irresponsible to do so.

“The bulk of us here have our time in,” Eisenhardt said. “We could retire and we haven’t.

“We’ve asked to be a part of the solution,” he said.

‘We do it ourselves or somebody does it for us’

Inside the closed-door meeting, Collingswood Mayor James Maley said there wasn’t any greatly detailed discussion about the reorganization, its policing priorities, or tactical deployments. In fact, he said, much of what appeared on the docket had already been discussed publicly.

Maley described the meeting as mostly “informational” for mayors of the inner-ring suburbs; its function was to outline a transitional timetable for the Camden P.D. to the new, countywide metro division.

Maley said that although he understood the concerns of protestors outside, he objected to the notion that any public demonstration would prevent the metro division from being established.

“This is a done deal,” he said. “It’s time to work out how we do this transition in a way that keeps as many current Camden City officers employed as possible.

“It’s time to stop the fight,” he said.

Maley said that with the impending passage of state Senate President Stephen Sweeney’s (D-3) shared services bill this fall, communities statewide will be led to embrace initiatives like regionalized policing on their own “or it’s going to be forced on us.”

Better then, he said, for communities to handle these things on their own terms while they still can.

“We do it ourselves or somebody else does it for us,” Maley said. “If we do nothing, these changes are coming. They’re being ordered from the state.”

Although Maley added that “there’s nothing in the foreseeable future” to suggest that Collingswood is headed towards dissolving its own police department and joining up with a countywide force, he wouldn’t rule out such a move within the next 15 to 20 years.

“There’s a whole bunch of towns locally that have been talking for a few months now,” he said, but “it’s a slow, long process; there’s a lot of issues.”

Maley also confirmed that the only police chief present at the meeting was Richard Sarlo of Collingswood. Although others had been invited to attend along with their mayors, the executive board of the police chiefs association “had decided months ago to not participate in the process,” he said, “and that’s a shame.”

Maley also said that the brinksmanship tactics employed in the fight are fueling anxieties on both sides. There’s no way of knowing how many of the existing Camden City police officers could be re-hired for the metro division, ironically enough, because of a catch-22 union-busting rule.

“My understanding is that there’s a federal law that won’t allow the county department to hire more than 50 percent of the existing officers unless you strike a deal with the union,” Maley said.

Yet the union won’t negotiate with the county because it disagrees with the plan in principle—so no deal can yet be struck to carry over more jobs from the current union into the new department.

Along the same lines, Maley says, calls from protestors to put the county policing initiative to a public referendum will go unanswered because the elected officials believe, in principle, that the people already have had their say in voting them into office.

“There are hard decisions that have to be made and hard decisions are typically not unanimous,” he said.  

Joseph Forrest August 22, 2012 at 01:27 PM
With all due respect, these proceedings don't equate positive progress, the same way Maley's comments don't equate "being a stand up guy". The Camden county democrats and their cronies do whatever the hell the want, and always in their best interest. The level of corruption and insanity has become so blatant; we've all come to just accept it. On Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday, senators and freeholders are kissing babies and shaking hands with WWII vets. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, they're cutting a ribbon for some ugly park or event. The one thing they do 7 days a week? Work in their best interest by using our tax money like this is a giant game of monopoly. It's a disgrace. What's worse? The citizens of our towns, county, and state. Forgive me for sounding dramatic, but our government in its present form is very much like the third Reich of Nazi Germany. They slowly gained power and wheeled their way into every nook and cranny. Before you knew it, there was no such thing as democracy or peoples' choice. I'm so utterly ashamed and disillusioned by the level peoples' complacency and total disregard for what happens outside of their personal bubble. It's actually numbing. We know exactly what is happening here. Hell, Mayor Maley even SAID what was happening "we better do this now on our own terms, or else the state will force us to do this". There's something wrong when we no longer can read between the lines. Gone are the days of accountability.
Joseph Forrest August 22, 2012 at 01:43 PM
@Carmen - I lived in Camden for ten years, and I can tell you that nothing will ever change. But do you know what is worse? The complete and utter apathy of Camden city residents. As a matter of fact, it's MIND BLOWING to contemplate the pathetic turn out rates of Camden city votes. Less than 10% of registered voters actually vote. THAT is why you have the same scum in city council and the mayor's office. The politicians may be corrupt and evil, but a small clan of Camden voters who decided to get off their ass on Election Day, voted them into office. Camden city is an extreme example of what is wrong with our whole country - the people don't care, they don't vote, they want change but they don't do anything to bring change, the politicians are running the show, etc, etc, etc. And with Camden smack in the middle between Philadelphia and the Jersey burbs, EVERYONE knows what's going on. Everyone sees the despair and violence and corruption. You would think that it would be a wake up call for everyone. But it isn't. We are a country of complacency. We only care or take a stand once something is literally up our nose. As for the police/violence situation in Camden? It's rather simple. Drug dealers killing drug dealers. No number of police will ever change that. The rest of violent crime is domestic violence and crazies doing what crazies do best. Unlike Philly where innocent people are being shot on the subway. So simple, yet not
andy August 22, 2012 at 02:33 PM
It doesn`t take a rocket scientist to figure out the real problem here. It is the lack of punishment given to the criminals. They know if they get caught they will go to jail, get fed, get medical, dental, care, get an education, and a bed to sleep in, with heat and air conditioning. If they knew if all that wasn`t available to them they would think about not doing the crime, because they would have to do hard time. If they kill someone, no more life in prison, bring back the death penality, and this will stop the trouble that is causing all the problems with Camden and all the other big cities. Make the inmates work for their meals, if they do not want to work they don`t eat.
R Jankowski August 22, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Camden is a hole that no amount of tax dollars can fill, all we are doing now is expanding the hole to encompass the whole county so we can all sink together; as if we are not paying enough now for that cesspool. I think it is time to find greener pastures, a place where democrats are a little more rare and individuality and freedom still means a little something. Thanks for the insight Mayor Maley.
agent itchy August 22, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Do you have high property taxes? Blame Home Rule and the ridiculous number of chiefs in Camden County and all over NJ. There are THREE police departments between my house in Cinnaminson and my daughter's house in Palmyra two miles away! Look to other states for your solution: CONSOLIDATION! The Virginia Beach Metro PD serves an area about the size and population of Camden County. ONE Chief instead of 37 individual municipal departments. If you are protesting one county-wide police department you 1) are uninformed, 2) a local cop 3) don't mind the highest property taxes in America wake the heck up folks, why do you think people are moving to Delaware, Virginia and Pennsylvania? it's because in those states there's not a separate police department for every town. MERGE MERGE MERGE, cops/emergency, the school districts and public works
Jolly Roger August 22, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Why does Maley say "WE" when talking about the transition of Camden PD to the county PD? Is that a Freudian slip meaning that Collingswood is somehow involved in this? Because otherwise the mayor of Collingswood would have no say in this plan because it falls under the city and county. Also the Collingswood chief is the only one in the meeting when others were denied access. Something is up.
Jolly Roger August 22, 2012 at 06:33 PM
@Chilly...first of all police tend to be the least expensive thing on your tax bill. Do you have any proof that this Virginia Beach department is a better service than what we get here? All I know is alot of states don't give the level of service we get here meaning a cop won't come out to your house for certain types of incidents and you have to go in to make a report which most people won't do. I'm not against the idea of unification, but this isn't being done the right way. It's a union busting move so Norcross can protect his precious Cooper Hospital. Because if this was a good idea this would've happened years ago. That is if it was being done for the right reasons.
Joseph Forrest August 22, 2012 at 07:01 PM
@Chilly - au contraire mon fraire. The majority of our property taxes pay for schools, county, and state. Secondly - this isn't Virginia, Pennsylvania, OR Delaware, for that matter. Shitty schools and low property values? No thanks! Thirdly - Over the past 200+ years, NJ has given rise to many unique communities. I agree that "home rule" is ridiculous beyond a particular point. However, there are valid reasons for "home rule". Each town is able to establish guidelines based upon what makes sense for them and their unique needs. The above mentioned states are so homogenous, it's disgusting. And if you want to live somewhere nice in FL or VA, you basically have to live in a gated community. Once again - no thanks! You are trying to over simplify this issue to an extreme. And that oversimplification implies one of two things: you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about, or two - you are a proponent of this hair-brain scheme for reasons above and beyond the "fiscal" concerns you mentioned. Urban, rural, historic, nouveau riche, blue collar, white collar. Yeah....try to consolidate all that is different in NJ. Hell will sooner freeze over before schools such as Haddonfield and Oaklyn merge. Merchantville closed down the bulk of its school system years ago, and now their kids go to Pennsauken schools. It killed Merchantville property values and raised taxes sky high! Can efficiencies be made? Yes! But this plan is pure politics. Period.
Joseph Forrest August 22, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Thank you!
nag523 August 22, 2012 at 07:09 PM
"Along the same lines, Maley says, calls from protestors to put the county policing initiative to a public referendum will go unanswered because the elected officials believe, in principle, that the people already have had their say in voting them into office" - I DIDN’T VOTE FOR THEM - Where’s my say?
Joseph Forrest August 22, 2012 at 07:11 PM
@Jolly - I couldn't have said it better myself. The total number of police in Camden county is over 1,225. Camden County is 230 sq miles, and has a population of over 515,000. Compared to Virginia Beach Metro, which has 20% fewer people and twice the geographic area. And their total force is well under 1,000 officers. Camden city alone makes up over 32% of the officers in Camden County. That's 400 officers just for one city! That is based on historical data AND the proposed number of officers in the county plan. So much for shared services! Disband all local police tomorrow and begin a county force of over 1,250 officers and immediately 33% of them are dedicated to Camden! Guess who pays for that disproportionate ratio? US! Mayor Dana Redd the and freeholder jokers tell us that Camden will pay for itself - HAHAHA! The reason they laid off half the dept in the first place was because they couldn't afford 400 officers! Even if you rehire the force at half salary, you still aren't solving the fiscal issues and criminal activity! THIS PLAN IS A JOKE! When Camden got it's last bailout from the state, it signed an agreement that it had to be fiscally self-sustaining within 5 years. Congratulations, Camden County....you just inherited the $100 million dollar annual deficit from Camden City. It starts with the "Metro" that is only for Camden, paid by Camden. Administratively and fiscally we know that such a dept doesn't make sense. The writing is on the wall.
Joseph Forrest August 22, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Ditto. Yet after all of this, these jokers will get voted back into office. Why? Because the county election system is so screwed up. Either no one ever challenges these jokers, or if they do, they're put in Column 12 where no one can see them. People walk in the booth and vote Column 1 all the way down. Adolf Hitler and the Easter Bunny could be in Column 1, and they'd still get the votes!
Anne Carroll August 22, 2012 at 07:51 PM
@ Jolly: Good point, particularly regarding George Norcross.
Juan R. Rodriguez August 22, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Really Maley a stand-up guy. Follow the money!! He's the mayor of Collingswood and also in the payroll as a lawyer for several county towns. Get with the program, do some homework!!
Juan R. Rodriguez August 22, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Folks like you R. Jankowski is what gives human beings a bad rep. Camden has it's plenty of issues and problems. Many cause by it's residents. But what about the folks from the surrounding towns coming in to get their whores, drugs, welfare, etc. What about other towns dropping their homeless in Camden, or dump thier "low-income house" projects require by the state in Camden? Camden may be alot of things but it's not a cesspool you fool.
Joseph Forrest August 22, 2012 at 09:48 PM
Responding to Juan's ignorant and baseless attack below. My family lived and owned businesses in Camden City from the 1920's up until the 1990's. And I personally lived there for ten years until recently. Having said that - Camden IS a cesspool. Your tone and defensive excuses make me feel like im at a north camden community meeting - lots a yelling, screetching, and pointless banter. Drugs and whores aside - if I HAD to place blame on anyone or anything, I would blame the residents. And here's why: Camden residents vote the same scum into office every year. Camden residents - unlike their European counterparts that moved out of the city in the 70's and 80's - refuse to police their streets and keep their neighborhoods clean. The defensive excuses are endless as to why Camden is the way that it is. Domestic violence calls via 911 literally account for over 60% of the criminal activity in Camden, and therefore represesnt the largest drain on the criminal justice system. The white guy from Cherry Hill isn't driving to the 1500 block of Chase street to beat your sister. Young kids are wandering the streets because their parents are off getting high. There are three types of good people in Camden - the older people and families who can't afford to leave, the yuppie white people who vow to change Camden, and the militant non-white folks who vow to change Camden.
Joseph Forrest August 22, 2012 at 10:04 PM
Part II of my tirade against Mr. Rodriguez below: Other towns don't pay Camden to take thier low-income housing. You're taking loose facts that you've picked up and you're assembling those pieces of fact into a false statement that is unfortunately typical of a Camden rant. By HUD standards, almost every property in the city qualifys as low income/affordable housing. And whatever new low income housing is built, it's built by non profits FROM Camden who chose to build income-restricted housing IN Camden FOR Camden residents. Since the average household income is $25,000, it makes sense to do so. Other sources of low income housing result from the city or private developer knocking down an old housing project to build a new low income housing project. Most cities knock down the projects to redevelop the area into something nicer, more sustainable, and overall better for the neighborhood. Nope...not in Camden. Tear down the old crap and built new crap. And the "requirements" you speak of refer to the Mount Laurel decision. Towns can't avoid these mandates, and only in a few cases did towns bypass their obligations by giving them to other towns. But those other towns weren't Camden. In fact, the receiving towns were white suburban towns next door to the slightly more affluent town who dodged their obligation. State put a stop to that. In the end...the churches, non-profits, government, civic groups, redevelopment groups - ALL corrupt and backwards.
Jolly Roger August 22, 2012 at 11:12 PM
@Joseph Exactly where I'm coming from. Collingswood is so entrenched in the county it's not funny. Norcross pulls Cappelli's strings and he then pulls Maley's strings. He is going to sell this town down the river because he's been given his orders. Then you add in his poor real estate deals with the lumber yard and Sutton and all that and he'll try to justify gettin rid of the cops as some cost cutting move that's saving the town money when he's the one that put the town in the hole.
william colucci August 22, 2012 at 11:21 PM
Right,he sure has some thing up his sleve.JOLLY ROGER--you hit the nail right on the head.Camden county,and Camden city is all democrats,and so are a lot of other towns in burlington township,, and what do you thing will happen there? king george,has more pull in Camden county,and his good friend phil,will be the man,when all is said and done.And who is running this country right now?a democrat,thats who,and he is not doing any better on his watch,or is he,is this what they had in mind.More power to the government,and less power to the people.
agent itchy August 23, 2012 at 12:10 AM
what you're saying is you like your high property taxes because you think your quaint village with all it's character will become Camden. that's basically what you're expressing. if you ditch 600 superintendents at $100k you're saving an instant $60 million. add to that all their assistant supers plus cars and staff. now fold those into the 21 county districts and do the match. same with cops & DPW. ditch the 565 individual departments and fold them into the county sheriff's dept. you can not believe that lots of small departments is cheaper than fewer big departments. if you did than Costco and Sams Club wouldn't be in business. economies of scale is how you achieve savings.
Juan R. Rodriguez August 23, 2012 at 12:11 AM
Responding to Joseph's ignorant and baseless attack above. Congrats you "personally lived there for ten years." Hmm, let me see what prize I can get you for living there for ten years...Nada! Your tone my friend is just sensitive excuses to make me feel nervous and scare because you stated,"makes me feel like im at a north camden community meeting - lots a yelling, screetching, and pointless banter." At least someone is in those meeting rather then hiding behind the internet. I'll invite you to a North Camden meeting, even make you a T- shirt saying "Camden is a cesspool." See how far you get. You do have somewhat of a little point in blaming the residents. Camden residents DO vote the same scum into office every year. Sadly they're the only ones who come out to vote for the DemoCrap machine. Your racist comment, and I qoute you, "Camden residents - unlike their European counterparts that moved out of the city in the 70's and 80's - refuse to police their streets and keep their neighborhoods clean."...is nothing but BS. My father and mother from,...umm...you know Puerto Rican background policed and cleaned their neighborhood. Also own their house for 36 years...shh own not rent. And yes there are three types of good people in Camden - the older people and families who can't afford to leave, the yuppie white people who vow to change Camden, and the militant non-white folks who vow to change Camden. I'll take them over you ;-)
Loretka August 23, 2012 at 02:15 AM
This statement by Maley is like some of the recent statements by politicians that they are later sorry they said - i.e. Akin. He thinks because they are elected they can do whatever they please and the people have no further rights? I sure hope that the other "elected officials" don't think like him. Do they all believe that when they are voted in they can do whatever they please even against the wishes of the people? If so, they are terribly wrong. I take offense at that stupid statement by Maley.
Loretka August 23, 2012 at 02:27 AM
I don't believe that a Camden County police force for the City of Camden will be paid for entirely by the City of Camden. I don't believe that "the financial impact . . . to county residents is 'zero'". But then, I haven't drunk the Kool-Aid.
Jolly Roger August 23, 2012 at 03:24 AM
@Chilly - it seems most of your attack is on the schools, which I'm not sure about in Virginia Beach, but in this state is budgeted seperately. Not that I don't disagree with what you're saying. And yes regionalization on paper makes sense, but you're obviously not akin to the corruption of this area and the real dirty underlying things that are behind this plan. Making public safety more efficient is at the bottom of this list with these guys.
Mike Stanton August 23, 2012 at 01:55 PM
There are great opportunities for cost savings by consolidating redundant and similar functions among multiple municipalities. And that is qualified as the mission of the Memo Of Understanding (MOU) signed by Camden City, the county, and state for the proposed Camden Metro and county police force. The problem is that there is no mention in the MOU of police compensation, work rules, police tactics, or spillover crime into neighboring communities as challenges that need to be addressed....just similar functions. Why are the decision makers not asking; What is fair and reasonable compensation for Camden City police for the skills they possess, the roles they fill, and the risks they take. Absent asking this question, whatever compensation package they come up with will be arbitrary and not credible.
Collingswoodnative August 23, 2012 at 02:09 PM
King James has said from the start that Collingswood will join in the Camden Metro PD., that's no Freudian slip. Scary that Chief Sarlo is involved however. Collingswood PD has always been a fiefdom. Been here all my life, I know of what I speak.
Joseph Forrest August 24, 2012 at 03:37 PM
@Chill - I agree with the math, and I won't debate the base of what you're saying. However - there's an assortment of social and cultural issues that go hand-in-hand with the fiscal debate. Once again, just consider what has already happened in other merger situations, particularlly when a desireable and less than desireable town merged schools, etc. Perhaps its the 800 gorilla in the room, but "class", "race", "culture", and overally value have a lot to do with the issue of home rule. Some would argue that Collingswood high school would be even more desirable and achieve better rankings, if it didn't have an agreement with Oaklyn and Woodlynne. As usual, these are the uncomfortable social issues that are interwoven with many fiscal and governmental problems. And no one wants to talk about them.
Joseph Forrest August 24, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Actually, Juan, I never asked for any prize, nor has it ever been my mission to "scare and intimidate you". Do you actually think those things? I've attended and organized more Camden community meetings than I care to share. I don't hide on the internet, and I certainly didn't hide behind the scenes while in Camden. As you very well SHOULD know, nothing productive ever comes from the many community meetings held each year. I did a lot for other people and neighborhoods while I lived in Camden - cleaning other people's damn streets and neighborhood, cleaned their vacant lots, organized their neighborhood events and meetings, tried to make their block a safer and brighter place to live. So, while I could toot my own horn all day long, but I know that it's useless...especially when talking to people who aren't willings to have a real discussion about the real problems.
Joseph Forrest August 24, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Lastly - I refuse to let anyone tell me that just because I mention facts or issues that surround "race" or "ethnicity", that it immediately makes me or my remarks "racist". I stated a fact about Camden's cultural and ethnic history. My family lived in Parkside, Cramer Hill, North Camden, Whitman Park, and South Camden for over 75 years. I'm more connected to the city than the mouthy hood rats whose families invaded Camden in the 70's and 80's. In fact, my "racist" remarks happen to accurately describe other cities, too. Take South Philadelphia for example. Italians took great pride in their homes and neighborhood. This is why many parts of South Philly have remained safe and "frozen in time". Families took pride in their neighborhood, and made sure it stayed clean, safe, and neighborly. The puerto rican culture is similar, which is why East Camden is one of the better parts of Camden. But just because your family took care of their home and property, doesn't account for the hundreds and thousands of people in Camden who did not. If you want to have a real discussion, then stop looking at the facts as a personal attack. Just look at the situation for what it is. And for the record, I've walked - yes, walked - throughout the city when I went to meetings and work. The worse thing that ever happened to me in North Camden or Whitman Park, was a bunch of thugs calling me names. I'm comfortable in what I accomplished, and I have no shame and nothing to hide.
Loretka August 24, 2012 at 06:38 PM
To Joseph Forrest, I say AMEN I grew up in Whitman Park, and when I got married I moved to East Camden and raised my kids there. Both areas were great places to grow up. And I worked in center city Camden for 22 years. So what happened to Camden? It is what it is- facts speak for themselves. But I do feel sorry for the GOOD people who are stuck there and have no choice.

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