Photo of snoozing cop in Camden prompts inquiry

This photo, believed to have been taken by a Camden resident, went the rounds of social media and has prompted an internal investigation.
This photo, believed to have been taken by a Camden resident, went the rounds of social media and has prompted an internal investigation.
Posted: August 10, 2013

The picture has made the rounds of social media for the last few days: An officer of Camden's new county-run police force apparently asleep in his squad car, his head tilted back and his mouth open.

On Thursday, the Camden County Police Department said it was investigating.

"We are deeply concerned by what appears in that photograph," Police Chief Scott Thomson said through a spokesman.

"Our residents deserve the absolute best police services, and we continue to encourage anyone who sees something that appears inappropriate to immediately report it to us and we will investigate, as is the case here," he said.

Officials did not immediately identify the officer in the photo and could not say whether the photo was authentic.

An officer on the new force said he had learned that the patrolman in the photo had just been transferred from the day shift to the night shift.

"That was his first day working 12 a.m. to 12 p.m.," said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak for the department. "We all battle to stay up. The hours are brutal."

The county-run force replaced the nearly 184-year-old city department a little more than three months ago.

An officer of the former city department who is not a member of the county force said that while sleeping on duty is usually inexcusable, there might be mitigating circumstances. The officer, he said, could have been sick, on a break, or tired from working a long shift, or maybe had just dozed off briefly when the photo was taken.

It was not known who took the picture and initially posted it online. NBC10, which interviewed a resident who claimed to see the officer nodding off, said the incident happened Monday morning at Third and Vine Streets in North Camden.

The department's spokesman, Michael Daniels, said it could not immediately say when authorities learned of the photo.

In May, the new force replaced the old city force in a bitter transition that was opposed by police unions and some residents who characterized the move as unsafe, and as a union-busting maneuver.

The 278-member force is expected to grow to 400 officers by the end of the year. Its efforts currently are concentrated in the Parkside and Fairview neighborhoods.

On Tuesday, officials touted successes during the force's first 90 days, citing reductions in various categories of crime.

But Camden County NAACP president Colandus "Kelly" Francis contended that the plan wasn't working and that homicides, nonfatal shootings, and drug dealing were still rife in neighborhoods other than Parkside and Fairview.


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

|
|
|
|
|