About a dozen protest Camden police changes

Posted: January 29, 2013

About a dozen members of a recently formed group gathered Monday at Camden City Hall to complain that they lacked complete information on the fiscal impact of the county police force proposed to replace the 141-year-old city department.

The group, called We the People Whistleblowers, said its members had not seen a detailed budget - including what has been spent over two years of planning - for the proposed force, which county officials say would better protect the city.

Group members said they also were concerned about the future financing of the roughly 400-member force, which at this point would protect only Camden.

"Our concern is that there isn't going to be sufficient money to pay for this, and we're going to end up in a crisis," said Carlette Southern Robert, a real estate agent who lives in Camden.

"There is no public process," contended Southern Robert, who said she worked in city government for 15 years in Philadelphia and San Jose, Calif.

Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr. said the county accepted $5.5 million in state funds toward nearly $10 million start-up costs in a public meeting this month, and those details were released.

"At this point, they're just acting as obstructionists and trying to find ways to stop this process," he said.

Gov. Christie's office has not said how much it will commit to sustaining the force, which would be paid for in the city budget. Nearly 70 percent of the city's $150 million budget is funded by the state.

A final itemized budget for the county force has not been released. Cappelli said officials were finalizing an agreement with the state to "adequately fund" the force and the burden would not fall on local residents.

The group members blew whistles and put pink letter-size slips of paper bearing the words Rejected and Returned in front of Mayor Dana L. Redd's office, in opposition to the city's plan to lay off the entire department.

Nearly 260 city officers were given layoff notices this month, but a number could be hired onto the new force.

Camden's Fraternal Order of Police postponed a vote last week on proposed contract terms from the county. Members await answers on specific provisions before scheduling another vote, union president John Williamson said.

Contact Darran Simon at 856-779-3829 or at dsimon@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @darransimon.

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