Ex-Phila. chief to help with Camden merger

John F. Timoney left in 2001.
John F. Timoney left in 2001.
Posted: August 04, 2011

Camden County has hired former Philadelphia Police Commissioner John F. Timoney to consult on the county's proposed takeover of Camden City's police force, county officials said Wednesday.

As Philadelphia's top cop, Timoney was praised for his statistics-based model of policing and criticized for his handling of protesters during the 2000 Republican National Convention.

Camden, consistently ranked as one of the most dangerous cities in the nation, is in dire financial straits, and a county-run police force has been endorsed by local officials and Gov. Christie as a way to reduce costs and get more police on the streets.

Timoney will be paid $1,500 a day, plus expenses, for a five-day visit beginning Aug. 15. The county said it would consider hiring Timoney for a longer period after his initial visit.

Timoney, who lives in Miami, said Wednesday he plans to spend the next week studying Camden's crime data.

"You have to throw everything out on the table and look at it," he said. "The problem with police layoffs, it's not just Camden, it's not just the Northeast, it's the whole country."

Camden has laid off about 25 percent of its police force this year, raising fears the city won't be able to adequately combat its long-standing gang and drug problems.

On Tuesday, Mayor Dana L. Redd said she had agreed to work with county and state officials on developing a new force. If created, the force would result in the disbanding of the city's existing department.

That met with outrage from Camden police officers, who would be allotted a limited number of spots on the new force and would face significant cuts in health care and retirement benefits.

Timoney, who in the 1990s worked to merge the New York City Police Department with transit and housing police, will also be working on the county's larger plan to create a countywide police force.

That plan has been met largely with skepticism from suburban mayors.

The news of Timoney's hiring Wednesday did little to allay the concerns of Gloucester City Mayor Bill James, a former police official who has criticized the county for what he believes to be a bailout of Camden City.

"They always say it's not about Camden, but then it turns out it is," he said.

Timoney, 63, a native of Ireland, enjoys a reputation as a plain-spoken leader with a pragmatic approach to fighting crime.

Former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell, who hired Timoney in 1998, gave him the bulk of the credit for cutting crime rates.

"Gov. Christie is going to love him," Rendell said Wednesday. "What he did with our police and crime problem was incredible. He revolutionized us."

Since leaving Philadelphia in 2001, Timoney has headed the Miami Police Department, written a book, and completed a fellowship at Harvard University. He currently works as a senior vice president for the consulting firm Andrews International, based in Valencia, Calif.

Timoney acknowledged he isn't very familiar with Camden - joking that the most contact he's had is a Philadelphia-to-Atlantic City bike race last weekend.

When told it would be difficult for him to stay in Camden during his consulting tour, since the city has no hotels, Timoney said, "I'll find a way."

Contact staff writer James Osborne at 856-779-3876 or jaosborne@phillynews.com.

Contributing to this article were Inquirer staff writers Matt Katz, Darran Simon, and Claudia Vargas.


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