May 18, 2015
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,
Dear Mr. President:
On behalf of the 33,000 State, county and local law enforcement officers of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, I am writing in follow up to your visit to Camden, NJ today where I believe you were provided misleading information to support a Police Department that is in essence a shell game designed to misdirect the public about crime and policing in the City.
Mr. President, you have been misled by public relations spin and misreporting of crime statistics to believe that the Camden County Metro Police is a success. This police department was created by union-busting tactics with the full collusion of Governor Christie and local leaders who, when crime spiked after massive officer layoffs, blamed the remaining officers instead of themselves.
The Camden County Metro Police was created in 2013 through an agreement between the State, County and City of Camden. In the years preceding the creation of the new Department, 168 police officers were laid off and crime rose. When the Camden FOP would not negotiate severe cuts in their existing contract with the City for their remaining officers, local leaders went to the State for approval to disband the Department. The result was a deal to lay off every remaining Camden Police Officer, transfer policing of the City to the County, and allow for the use of tens of millions in State funds to pay for the new force.
Camden County does not have a countywide police department. These officers never leave Camden and no other town in Camden County has asked for the County to patrol their communities. That alone sends a message that the real goal of establishing this Department wasn’t crime fighting but union busting. During your time in office you have fought for employees to have the right to collective bargaining and job security. What happened in Camden, however, stripped hard-working veteran officers of both and I believe it violates many of the principles you have spoken out on as President.
Sadly, I believe you were brought to Camden under false pretenses. You don’t need to be a criminology expert to know that more cops means less crime but, even with increased staffing from rookies with less experience than the officers the County laid off, the numbers in Camden don’t tell the whole story. Camden officials frequently misreport and underreport crimes to make it appear as if violent crime and gun violence are dropping. This is not conjecture, it is real frustration from officers on the streets in Camden.
I am sure that Camden officials didn’t brief you on the substantial turnover that is occurring in the Department. A large number of the new officers hired to staff the Department have left the Force – nearly 20 in April 2015 alone - due to poor pay, working conditions and the lack of facts being told about what is really going on in Camden. These officers are being asked to work in the nation’s deadliest City with pay and benefits insufficient to address their workload.
Most insulting, Camden County laid off experienced officers, many close to retirement, but chose to retain and give a $67,000 raise to its Chief whose failure of leadership led to the understaffing and crime spike to begin with. If the prior Department was such a failure then the Chief should have been the first to go. But it is easier to blame employees and their contracts than to acknowledge that leadership has failed.
Camden County is receiving tens of millions of dollars in State funding, money that is being used to run this Department that would be better spent in other places. As you are aware, Atlantic City is struggling to stay afloat following the closure of several casinos. The Mayor of Atlantic City has been working hard with his employees to cut costs and has been begging the State for financial assistance. However, the Governor has ignored his pleas while propping up a police force in Camden with money that is desperately needed elsewhere.
Camden residents deserve increased public safety and a dedicated police force. They had a hard-working police department that was disbanded not because they couldn’t fight crime but because they were deadlocked at the bargaining table.
Mr. President, I am urging you to look closely at what is really going on in Camden and to not allow yourself to be used to perpetuate a myth that is now being spread throughout New Jersey that the easiest way to cut crime is to lay off hard working police officers, dramatically cut their pay and benefits and manipulate crime stats.
Thank you for your attention to these serious concerns. I will make myself available to you or your staff to discuss this issue in depth at any time.
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