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It caught my eye from one of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports is that officials there are looking at the successful policing transformation that has occurred in Camden, New Jersey, over nearly a decade.
It’s a story I’m quite familiar with, having worked in Camden over nearly 17 years (until late 2018), and knowing well the public officials behind the transformation, from the Camden County Council to then-Mayor, Dana Redd, and then-Police Chief, J. Scot Thomson.
As I’ve said here previously, they are a model for the cities everywhere, and the New York Times captured the transformation in this 2014 story; National Public Radio follow up in 2015. It is genuinely a success story in a troubled but rising city, but it is not about “defunding police.” It is about returning to, and expanding on, a vision of real “community policing.” Bloomberg News Service followed up with a story 3 days ago.
Camden’s police department had fallen into disrepair. Mayor Redd didn’t effectively “abolish” the force, but allowed the county to, in effect, “acquire” it, and completely change their approach, focused on neighborhood engagement and safety. Broken communities, like Camden – one of America’s poorest cities, and at one time a “murder capital” — cannot rebuild, attract jobs, or invite new residents if people do not feel safe. “Foot patrols” and engaging with residents, along with enforcing the law to eliminate open-air drug markets, has helped transform this city. Trust has been established, and the progress continues. Violent and non-violent crime rates have tumbled.
So, yes, it would be wise for cities and towns everywhere to emulate what Camden has done. It works. But it is not the same as “defunding the police.” That is dangerous and unwelcome rhetoric. But I think Camden’s successful transformation is a model everyone can embrace. Except, maybe, for Antifa.