Another View: What Minneapolis can gain from Camden, N.J. – Press Herald

20June 2020

The death of George Floyd while in cops custody has prompted calls to defund or take apart the Minneapolis Police Department and other police around the country. As an outcome, Camden, New Jersey, has been held up as a design for doing just that. Seven years back, that city eliminated its police department and began over.

Ever since, stats from the city of 74,000 show some success. Excessive use-of-force rates plunged, and murders and other violent criminal activities decreased in a municipality that was as soon as called the most hazardous city in the state. Yet the New Jersey city's reforms can not merely be superimposed on Minneapolis. For beginners, the political circumstances in Camden a years back need to be comprehended.

In the early 2010s, Camden was a city in deep monetary difficulty and was facing laying off about half of its 300-plus officers. The department had a reputation for usage of prejudiced policing in a city that was more than 90 percent Black and Hispanic. Authorities were typically accused of corruption and of utilizing excessive force.

In May 2013, the Camden City Council voted to eliminate its cops department and establish a new one under county control with the blessing and financing from the state. The remaining city cops were all laid off and had to reapply to work for the county, under far less generous, nonunion agreements. The force was increased to nearly 400 officers. The Camden police reforms stay politically dissentious. That's in part since union contracts were thrown away, leaving many on the force earning a lower salary with less benefits. Ultimately, cumulative bargaining returned with a contract that allowed the chief and his supervisors more disciplinary and termination power.

It's likewise crucial to note that some members of the Camden neighborhood fought the modifications and submitted a lawsuit to save the department. The case eventually ended up in front of the state Supreme Court, which ruled 6-0 in favor of the citizens in 2015. But at that point it was far too late: The Camden County Police Department had been established, and the old force was gone.

From 2012 to 2018, Camden experienced a 23 percent drop in violent crime and a 48 percent drop in nonviolent crime, although numerous aspects likely played a role. Criminal offense rates dropped in most New Jersey cities during that very same period.

Officers on the reinvented Camden force say they see their tasks in a new method, and there's higher emphasis on neighborhood relations and de-escalation. Beat polices are more apt to sign in with individuals and businesses even when they are not responding to require service. Officers marched with protesters after Floyd's death.

Camden increased the variety of police officers on the streets while pressing through a variety of now-progressive cops reforms that altered the culture of the force. And leaders mustered the political will to get required contractual changes so that the chief and his supervisors might hold officers responsible for their actions.

Although Camden is not a perfect model for Minneapolis, there are lessons to be gained from the New Jersey experiment.

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