CAMDEN, NJ – An injunction sought by Camden’s police union against a county-run force was denied in Superior Court Tuesday.
Judge Faustino J. Fernandez-Vina denied the union’s request for an injunction, but declined to rule on a separate argument alleging the transition in policing doesn’t follow shared service requirements. Fernandez-Vina said he couldn’t rule on the latter argument since a shared services agreement between Camden and the county does not yet exist.
The ruling comes just over a month before the scheduled April 30 layoff of Camden’s current 237 officers. A county police force comprised of approximately 115 officers from outside the city and 155 former Camden officers will then take over city policing.
Officers hired from outside Camden began training with the county department Monday and are expected to begin field training in the city early next month.
With the scheduled transition in policing now just weeks away, Anthony Valenti, an attorney for the union, said he fears the union’s arguments on the legality of a shared services agreement between the city and county won’t be heard until the point is moot.
Valenti said during arguments Tuesday the city and county have delayed entering such an agreement on the metro force because of a possible legal challenge. Attorneys for the city and county countered there isn’t any requirement for an agreement time frame to be established and that said agreement may not even be necessary.
After the hearing, Valenti maintained that since Fernandez-Vina declined to make any ruling on the legality of a shared services agreement until it’s official, he fears any challenge by the union or residents won’t happen before Camden’s department is disbanded.
“It’s preventing a judicial review of the legality of it,” Valenti added. “It’s also preventing any type of citizen challenge.”
Fernandez-Vina denied Valenti’s separate argument that the county lacked authority to start a police force for the purpose of replacing the Camden department. The city’s police union and some civilian activists have adamantly opposed the long-planned transition in policing, arguing it is unproven and unfair to Camden’s current officers.
County and city leaders, however, have maintained that the larger county police force will create efficiencies through the elimination of fringe benefits and will add more officers on Camden’s streets.
From The Courier-Post