"Given the current rise in violent activities, this decision has been made solely on what is right for our residents. Nothing more; nothing less," Redd said at Tuesday's City Council meeting. "We need to assure our residents that all life matters and that we are serious about making our city safe."
The city has recorded 39 homicides so far this year, 12 more than this time last year. If the pace continues, Camden would exceed 2011's total of 49 and could surpass the record of 58 in 1995.
Decades since its days as a manufacturing center, Camden, with more than 170 open-air drug markets in nine square miles, has regularly been ranked among the country's most dangerous cities.
The county-run force has been pitched as an economical means to increase police presence in the cash-strapped city and has the backing of powerful political figures, including Gov. Christie. Batches of county officers would begin patrolling the streets as the current force is being phased out, organizers said.
The police union and local activists continue a court battle against the creation of the metro division, which would operate with lower pay and benefits. John Williamson, president of the Fraternal Order of Police lodge in Camden, called the mayor's announcement "a farce and a sham."
"They created the crime problem when they laid off half the police force and gave the criminals carte blanche," he said. "You subject those who remain to atrocious working conditions, force them into overtime, and at the end, you just kick them out."
Councilman Brian Coleman said the answer was not a new force but rather a better deployment of the city's existing officers. He contended that officers were being assigned to patrol in higher numbers along the city's waterfront during concerts and around Cooper University Hospital.
"They need to be on the streets and hitting these open-air drug markets," he said. "When we have these concerts, the people who go [to Susquehanna Bank Center] get more police protection than anyone in the city. That's not right."
Police Chief Scott Thomson said the waterfront and medical campus had contracts with the city for police to provide security.
"With 1962 staffing levels, we don't have a deployment problem; we have a capacity problem," he said. "However, the finite resources are assigned in alignment with criminal activity and intelligence."
But with Redd ready to move on layoffs, the process of creating the county-run force is already under way.
Joe Cordero, a former top state police official and director of East Orange's police force who began consulting in July, said last week that he planned to overlap the winding-down of the existing force with the creation of the metro division.
The new force would be field-trained for 17 to 19 weeks and hit the street in batches of 25 or so recruits, he said. The county officers would be dispatched to high crime areas and may back up Camden officers when needed, he said.
Contact James Osborne at 856-779-3876, email@example.com or follow on Twitter @osborneja.