Reporting Steve Tawa
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By Steve Tawa
CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) –In a meeting that took all of two minutes, Camden City Council today voted to lay off all the city’s uniformed officers, as a prelude to phasing out the department and setting up a county-run “metro” police department.
There was no debate during the special meeting. The vote was 6-1.
Councilman Brian Coleman cast the lone “no” vote, saying the plan was a slap in the face to the 270 officers now slated for layoff by April 30th (see related story).
“The men and women of the Camden Police Department have put their lives on the line,” he said today.
Opponents of the plan charge it was designed to circumvent the police department’s union contract and cut benefits for officers (see related story).
Coleman is also a critic of Chief Scott Thomas, saying that when Thomas took over five years ago, Camden was rated the fifth most dangerous city in America. Since then, Coleman says, the department has lost 100 officers and Camden has moved up to being, every year since, the first or second most dangerous city in America.
Former Councilman Ali Sloan-El is concerned that Chief Thomas could be laid off only to transition to the top job in the Metro force.
“Andy Reid got fired because he didn’t participate in winning,” Sloan-El said today. “We have a losing team, so you fire the coach!”
Community leaders are concerned that too few current officers will be part of the new metro force, and they say outside officers don’t know the neighborhoods.
Mayor Dana Redd hopes many current officers will apply.
“I’ve been to roll call and encouraged them to take advantage of this opportunity,” she said.