By David Madden

CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — The city of Camden wants to be the first participant in a Camden County police department.

City residents opposed to the plan have gathered enough support to put the question to voters.

Now, city officials have gone to court in an attempt to block the referendum.

Safety comes first says Mayor Dana Redd in an e-mail suggesting the referendum “improperly binds” her and those who will come after her.

Those behind the referendum, like Camden FOP President John Williamson, don’t buy that.

“If they were putting the safety of the citizens first, they would have never laid off 168 police officers a year and a half ago,” Williamson explained.

Most of the officers are now back and, in fact, the size of the force could double under the countywide plan, although some fringe benefits would be cut.

The suit, filed in Superior Court, argues elected officials are empowered to make the final call on issues like this.

Petitions seeking the referendum were certified by the Camden City Clerk last month.

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