CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — Bill Roberts loved going to work. That might surprise some, since this 40-year-old worked as a police officer on the streets of Camden.
“I really wanted to make a difference,” he says. “I really wanted to work for a city and address serious crimes.”
Roberts wanted to work in the city so badly, he actually left a job in Lawnside to start walking the beat in Camden in 2006. But then this past January, as the impoverished city struggled with a massive budget deficit, he was laid off alongside 167 other Camden officers.
“It was heartbreaking,” Roberts says. “I thought for certain they’d have us back in 90 days or at least maybe by the end of June.”
Now, ten months later, Roberts is still out of work. With 700 laid off police officers in New Jersey alone, open jobs are scarce. But perhaps Vice President Joe Biden might be able to help him out.
The Vice President came to Philadelphia Tuesday and met with about a dozen police chiefs from across the region. He’s pitching support for the President’s American Jobs Act which includes $4 billion strictly for towns and cities to hire back or keep police officers and firefighters on the job.
“This is a crisis,” the Vice President said. “Who is against putting them [police and firefighters] back to work in terms of just public safety, security and our children?”
The White House says the jobs package could put up to 18,000 police officers back on the beat, but Republicans in Congress have blocked the bill in part because it raises taxes on millionaires. Some also argue this is just a temporary bailout for cities and towns.
The President and Vice President say they will take all the individual parts of the jobs package directly to the public to persuade Congress to take action.
Among those police chiefs meeting with the Vice President: Camden Chief John Scott Thomson.
“I want my friends to explain why these guys shouldn’t put their folks back to work,” the Vice President said. “Why doesn’t Camden deserve to have it’s police force restored?”
Reported by Ben Simmoneau, CBS 3