Reporting David Madden
By David Madden
CAMDEN, NJ (CBS) – By better than two-to-one, members of Camden’s police union have voted down a deal that would have allowed more of their number to transfer to a new force to be run by Camden County, with the FOP serving as their bargaining agent. But the vote will not deter the effort to form the new force.
The final tally, 142-62 against what FOP head John Williamson has labeled a “take it or leave it” proposal.
Williamson denies suggestions he pushed his members to turn the plan down.
“I presented the proposal as unbiased as possible. I was even criticized by my own members of being on the political bosses’ payroll.”
County Freeholder Lou Cappelli led a group of elected officials who expressed dismay at the result.
“The ball was in their court. They voted to have themselves laid off. That is just unconscionable. I can’t fathom it,” Cappelli said.
More than 40 current cops signed up for the new county department as an application deadline approached, bringing the total number to over 150. But this rejection caps the number that can be brought aboard to about 130 as part of the planned 400 member force.
Williamson said he’s open to further talks, ”We are open to go back to the table to negotiate with the county and with the city. We’ve always been open to negotiate with them. In spite of anything they say, first and foremost is the safety of the residents of the city of Camden.”
But Cappelli said there will be no more negotiating.
Camden Mayor Dana Redd says the move to a county force will now proceed, with or without the FOP.
“The plane is on a tarmac and we are about to take off for a new paradigm of public safety for the citizens of Camden.”
Hiring will begin in late February, with the full force on the street by late April.
Community groups say they will continue to fight the new county-wide police force.