By Michelle Durham

CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) –Following a hearing this morning in New Jersey Superior Court, a judge has ruled that voters will not have to approve a referendum before their city police force is replaced with a new department operated by Camden County.

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The “show cause” hearing before Judge Daustino Fernandez-Vina pitted opponents of the regionalized police force against those in favor of it, including Camden mayor Dana Redd.

“Basically, the judge agreed that the referendum would not be put on the ballot for any election,” says Robert Corrales, the mayor’s spokesperson.  “This was the whole purpose: for seeking this declarative action from the court.  It was for them to decide whether this referendum was permissible or not, and that is what we were seeking.”

The union that represents Camden’s city police officers had fought for the referendum.

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“I’m a little disappointed at the decision, but I’m not surprised by it,” says John Williamson, president of FOP Lodge 1.  “We’re going to stick to our strategy.  We’re going to keep moving forward.  It’s just like you are running a race — they keep putting hurdles in front of us, we are going to keep jumping the hurdles.”

Corrales says they are moving forward with plans for the new “metro” police division, envisioned to provide police services to a number of towns in Camden County — although so far only the City of Camden has signed up for it.

Williamson, who thinks the plan is designed to circumvent the union in Camden’s police department, says they will do everything they can to stop it.

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