While Camden New Jersey is being devastated by budget cuts, homicides are accumulating at record pace and unemployment is skyrocketing. Despite the city’s plight, the Mayor Dana Redd is unable to even order two police union bosses, whose salaries are paid for by taxpayers, to fulfill their duties to serve the Camden community.
On August 7, Mayor Redd announced a pair of public safety reform measures. First, the Camden Police Department is merging with the county-run Camden Metro Police Division, following years of negotiations. Second, all uniformed officers are to report for duty and work as police officers, including union leaders on “release time” — a collective bargaining privilege that allows officers to perform union activities, in lieu of police duties, while getting paid by the department.
Camden police union bosses John Williamson and Kevin Wilkes have decried the mayor’s call for them to work as police officers as “retaliation” for publicly opposing the merger. They also claim the mayor’s measure ending release time would violate the police union’s collective bargaining agreements with the city. In short, the two officers claim that their union contract requires taxpayers to pay them for conducting union activities, rather than provide police services.