A search for answers after the death of George Floyd and the black lives matter protests.
Camden, NJ, is being touted as a success story of police defunding and change.
Camden added cops and dramatically increased their budget. City residents do not control the police department. The police force is mostly white in a 96% minority city.
There were considerable reductions in crime and police complaints.
But the city remains the most dangerous jurisdiction in the state and country in terms of rates of violence.
This is part of an ongoing series of articles to understand society’s reaction to the death of George Floyd and to seek solutions.
On May 1, 2013, Camden laid off its entire force and the county took over. The city paid the county $62 million for operational costs and leased its police administration building for $1. Critics decried the reorganization as nothing more than union-busting.
All quotes are direct but rearranged for brevity.
Camden is touted as an example of defunding a law enforcement agency that led to decreases in crime. The problem is that Camden remains the most violent city in New Jersey and one of the most violent in the country.
Most media reports do not include comparisons as to how Camden ranks in crime compared to the state and country.
Millions of dollars were added to Camden’s budget.
There are hundreds of articles (search Camden police reform) with some stating that Camden “defunded” their police force, crime and complaints plummeted, and the city is proof that less money and fewer cops mean success.
Much of what’s reported is not just wrong, it’s indicative of a sophomoric approach to very complicated issues.
Example News Coverage:
As a movement grows in American cities and suburbs to overhaul police departments and confront their long records of racially unjust, violent enforcement, Camden is one rare—and complicated—success story, a city that really did manage to overhaul its police force and change how it operated. And it took a move as radical and controversial as what some activists are calling for today: Camden really did abolish its police department.
And then the city set about rebuilding the police force with an entirely new one under county control, using the opportunity to increase the number of cops on the streets and push through a number of now-heralded progressive police reforms. And with time, the changes started to stick in a department that just years earlier seemed unfixable.
Violent crime had been high in the city for decades, but it was about to get worse, because the police department was broke. In 2010, Camden, faced with a $14 million budget deficit, laid off half of its police force. Arrests in 2011 fell to almost half of what they had been just two years earlier, and burglaries increased by 65 percent. The murder rate skyrocketed. Eventually, residents largely gave up on calling police for minor crimes, Politico
NBC New York
Camden dismantled its police department in 2013 after declaring its previous system impossible to fix. Prior to implementing a brand new system of public safety, the New Jersey city was deemed one of the most dangerous cities in the country.
Camden’s community policing model has drawn praise even from former President Barack Obama. But even so, some Camden residents fear the good press has gone too far. Longtime activists Pastor Amir Kahn and Kevin Benson said there was one obvious tradeoff as a result: When the city disbanded the police department and replaced it with county cops, the police force became more white.
Per The Crime Report, In 2011, state budget woes led to laying off almost half the 400 officers. A period of devastating crime followed, with a record 67 homicides in 2012. County leaders pushed for a new department that included a less-burdensome union contract they said would allow more officers to be hired. Police unions opposed it. Officers had to reapply for jobs on the county force alongside new recruits. The budget for the new force ended up millions higher that first year than what the city had planned to spend and it continues to grow,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Camden Crime Rates