A former Philadelphia police commissioner, brought in by Camden County officials to help oversee the implementation of a countywide police force, is not certain the plan will save money, according to reports.
John Timoney told reporters who'd gathered Tuesday at the Camden County Regional Emergency Training Center, in Blackwood, that whether savings will be realized depends on what are determined to be "optimal staffing levels," for municipalities.
"You're looking for optimal staffing levels to police a county like Camden County," he told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Maybe it costs more. You won't know until you look."
Collingswood Mayor James Maley, who sits on the committee that's been piecing together a countywide force, said Tuesday's meeting was aimed at addressing Camden City.
"What generated this (meeting) Tuesday, and the introduction of Timoney, was (to address) how to set up a Camden City metro division of the countywide police force," said Maley Wednesday evening. "But as far as I know, no other towns have signed up yet."
Regarding the regionalized force, Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr. has indicated that municipalities will pay their own share for their forces within the countywide scheme.
Opponents have expressed fears the county's other 36 towns would bare the burden of paying for Camden's policing under the proposal.
On Tuesday, Cappelli told the Inquirer that Timoney is here to do more than provide a high-profile, well-respected face to back the county plan.
"There's been a lot of speculation that Timoney's been brought in to bless a plan that's already been decided. Nothing could be further from the truth," he told the paper.
On the topic of savings, Cappelli told the Courier-Post he would consider the plan a success if it meant doubling officers on the Camden streets at roughly the same cost to run the current city police department.
Camden County announced earlier this month that Timoney was hired as a consultant to oversee planning for the countywide force. He is in town this week, on a per-diem basis, to help officials develop a plan to bring Camden on as the first member of the countywide force.
The county and Camden announced on Aug. 2 a tentative agreement to make the city the first member of the proposed department's metro division.
At this point, Camden remains the lone town to publicly express interest in joining the countywide police force, said Collingswood Mayor James Maley.
While Maley said the committee is not yet able to calculate the actual cost-savings that a regionalized force would bring, he said there will be savings nonetheless.
"For most suburban towns, we're simply exploring sharing different services," Maley said. "The plan has always been that (a municipality) would pay for it—but the expectation is that you'd be paying less (than it costs to run a localized force)."