How Camden, NJ, Remade Its Police Force: Live Updates: Protests For Racial Justice – NPR

8June 2020

Activists throughout the nation are requiring radical reforms to policing in the U.S., including eliminating the authorities totally.

Camden, N.J., took its own huge action in 2013. The city remained in a public security crisis, with murder rates 18 times the national average and ratings of excessive-force grievances, when the mayor and City Council dissolved the existing police department and created a countywide force in its place.

A majority of the cops were rehired, but each needed to finish a 50-page application, retake psychological screening and go through an interview procedure, former cops Chief Scott Thomson stated. He led the county authorities from 2013 to 2019 and the city's force prior to then.

The department instituted other changes, consisting of putting more officers on the street on a regular basis, getting to know the community and altering the method an officer's efficiency was determined– not by the number of arrests or tickets released, however other outcomes.

“When I drove down city streets, I wished to see youngsters riding a bike in front of their homes, and I wished to see people resting on their front actions,” Thomson told Mary Louise Kelly on NPR's All Things Considered.

His goal was the modification the identity of Camden law enforcement officer from that of “warrior” to “guardian. “Homicides have gone down from 67 in 2012 to 25 in 2019.

Excessive-force problems went from 65 in 2012 to 3 last year, Thomson stated. The changes are far from the radical defunding proposed by activists today. However Thomson echoed a number of their points.

“An authorities is just effective if it has the consent of the people. And to have the authorization of individuals, you need to be legitimate,” he said. “As a police leader, I say, what is the damage with giving them voice, permitting them to come in and be a part of the process? And all the while, it offers us the capability to have the discussion and the education, in both instructions, of how tough and tough circumstances can be better fixed.”

Here are excerpts from the interview:

Did you seem like you lost anything by eliminating a more conventional police force, more conventional practices?

No. As a matter of truth … I was an expert specialist in unsuccessful authorities policies. And every day we used to come to work and we thought that we might lower drug dealing and gang activity by securing drug dealerships. And we would put together groups, we would swoop in, we would do heavy enforcement. And basically all we were actually doing was revictimizing the people that lived within a community and [offering] chances for other lawbreakers to come in. … We were doing whatever from a proactive point of view and doing it entirely unilateral from the neighborhood in and of itself. We didn't have the consent. We didn't have their consent. So we didn't have legitimacy.

So what is your reaction to the calls we're hearing now? Protesters contacting cities to abolish their police.

So that's a bit severe. I do not see a democratic society wherein you might entirely eliminate a police. I do think that there are some serious conversations that can occur with regards to defunding cops. There are higher public safety rois with programs other than putting money towards enforcement. …

Look, I would have traded 10 polices for another Boys & & Girls Club, however the system needs to change as far as having authorities respond to events such as mental illness. Police are not equipped. They're not trained. They're not focused on that. However yet it continues to get handed over to them.

So I believe if we altered the expectation of cops and did not have them converging with neighborhood as regularly as it remains in areas where they don't have competence, I believe that the tension on a few of these concerns might definitely reduce if you put the money towards having professionals manage these situations. I believe polices would really appreciate that.

Listen to the full interview at the audio link above.

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