ANARCHY IN THE NJ: Camden Lays Off Half Of Police

CHERRY HILL COURIER-POST: After months of disbelief over mass police layoffs in the nation’s second most dangerous, Camden officers Monday began turning in their guns and badges. And in a move that will allow the department to maintain a much-needed street presence with fewer officers, the department moved to 12-hour work shifts Monday morning, according to sources with knowledge of the department. “Today was extremely difficult as we collected equipment from people who have dedicated and risked their lives for this city,” said Police Chief Scott Thomson. “Some of these individuals have more than 10 years of service, have been the officer or detective of the year, and are even better human beings.” Officers will continue to trickle into the headquarters along Federal Street throughout the day today. Barring a last-minute solution, by the close of business at 5 p.m., about 160 of them will have turned in their city-issued handguns and police radios. Sixty firefighters and about 100 civilian employees will be gone as well. MORE

INQUIRER: “I love it,” he says. “It’s my life.” Such blue-collar devotion seems almost quaint in a state where spending cuts are the new gospel and layoffs are practically a sacrament – particularly when administered to public employees. We keep hearing that only after many, many members of this unionized (gasp!) horde are forced into unemployment will prosperity be restored to the rest of us. One flaw in this magical scenario: The lives of real people are being crunched along with the numbers. People such as Bob Eckert, his wife, Laura, and their 18-month-old son, Bobby. “From Day One, Christie bad-mouthed us public employees,” Eckert says. “He paints us like we’re the enemy. Like we’re millionaires. I don’t want to be a millionaire. All I want to do is work my job as a fireman and retire with pride and in one piece, and call it a career.” Speaking of millionaires, Gov. Christie succeeded in protecting them from the unspeakable horror of a tax increase last year. But his “sharing the sacrifice” budget slashed aid for cities including Camden, forcing it to cut services. Hence, several hundred layoffs are to take effect Tuesday. “Christie is making it very difficult for people all over the state,” Eckert says. “I don’t get it. I’m a New Jersey resident, I’m a taxpayer, and he’s saying he’s saving tax money? My taxes just went up. My parents’ taxes just went up.” MORE

RELATED: A TRI-STATE, weekend dragnet for a cop-killer ended in a gritty Camden neighborhood yesterday, when SWAT officers stormed an apartment and arrested Jahmell W. Crockam, 19, for allegedly gunning down a Lakewood, N.J., policeman Friday afternoon. […] Police launched a manhunt that included house-to-house searches, armored vehicles, officers in body armor, search dogs and helicopters. Early yesterday, a tipster told police that Crockam was hiding inside Camden’s Crestbury Apartments, a sprawling complex of two-story, red brick, low-income rentals in a high-crime neighborhood known for gang activity. A 15-member task force of New Jersey State Police and U.S. Marshals surrounded the apartment, on Olive Street near Maple Walk, about 6:30 a.m., said Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford. MORE

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