By David Madden

CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — The move towards the formation of a Camden County police department, with the City of Camden its sole participant, continues with word that the city’s mayor is working on a plan to lay off the city’s entire police force as soon as the end of the year.

The city and county still have to finalize an agreement that will form the new force, but Camden Mayor Dana Redd expects that to be accomplished by the end of August — about the same time she’ll submit the layoff plan to New Jersey officials for approval.

Right now, the county police force has just one consultant on board, but Redd expects that to change quickly as hundreds of résumés are reviewed and people are hired.

A 2011 report from the CQ Press City Crime Rankings labeled Camden as the nation’s 2nd most dangerous city.

“As they begin to staff up, those officers will do their field training in the city of Camden, so there will be an overlay and a complement,” she said Wednesday.

The so-called “Metro Division” is expected to comprise up to 400 officers, less than half of them current members of the city’s police force.

Critics say the plan is designed to circumvent the city police department’s union contract.

Redd noted an uptick in violent crime in Camden and an increase in absenteeism among the current force — above 28 percent at times — as reasons to put this conversion on the fast track.

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