By Jenn Bernstein
CAMDEN, N. J. (CBS) – City activists say it’s one of the worst things that could happen in Camden.
By the end of the month, Mayor Dana Redd previously said, the city will present a police layoff plan which could let all current officers go, and make way for a new force called the Camden Metro Police Division. It would be run by the county.
“You don’t give up your first line of defense, your police department,” said former councilman and community activist Ali Sloan El, “once you give up your army, then you’re taken over.”
Sloan El is one of several community leaders who helped organize Tuesday’s march and rally.
Dozens of Camden residents, off-duty firefighters and police officers walked from the police headquarters to City Hall.
They were joined by members of the Fraternal Order of Police from Pennsylvania, as well as three busloads of members from New Jersey who all attended a City Council meeting Tuesday night at City Hall.
“We want to keep our police department,” said Sloan El, “the Mayor does not have the power to eliminate, layoff, or abolish the police department.”
Earlier in the day community leaders gathered in Whitman Park, one of the most dangerous parts of Camden, to discuss the rally and march.
They want change, and feel the current police department, if managed the right way, can do a better job than the new proposed force.
“We do need our city police,” said community activist Gary Frazier, Jr., “we must maintain local control.”
The mayor has said the new plan would improve safety and that all laid off police would be eligible for rehire. Police Union leaders have heavily criticized it, saying it’s more about saving money.
Councilman Brian Coleman represents the Second Ward in Camden. He would like to see the police department remain intact, although he believes it needs to be revamped.
Coleman said council members should pay attention to what marchers have to say at Tuesday’s meeting.
“I think they should have a voice,” said Coleman, “as a council person, I think we should take what they come to present, to listen, and weigh it carefully, and make the best choice for the residents here in the city.”