Revisiting Camden

ImageOne of the few bright spots over the past week was Camden, NJ where instead of beating protesters the police joined them. Protests in Camden were peaceful and orderly and there was little to no looting. As I wrote last year, Camden disbanded its police force in 2013, nullifying the old union contract, and rebuilt.

Jim Epstein described the situation prior to rebuilding:

Camden’s old city-run police force abused its power and abrogated its duties. It took Camden cops one hour on average to respond to 911 calls, or more than six times the national average. They didn’t show up for work 30 percent of the time, and an inordinate number of Camden police were working desk jobs. A union contract required the city to entice officers with extra pay to get them to accept crime-fighting shifts outside regular business hours. Last year, the city paid $3.5 million in damages to 88 citizens who saw their convictions overturned because of planted evidence, fabricated reports, and other forms of police misconduct.

In 2012, the murder rate in Camden was about five times that of neighboring Philadelphia—and about 18 times the murder rate in New York City.

In May of 2013, however, the entire police department was disbanded nullifying the union contract and an entirely new county police department was put into place.

The old city-run force was rife with cops working desk jobs, which Cordero saw as a waste of money and manpower. He and Thomson hired civilians to replace them and put all uniformed officers on crime fighting duty. Boogaard says she didn’t see a single cop during the first year she lived in the city. “Now I see them all the time and they make friendly conversation.” Pastor Merrill says the old city-run force gave off a “disgruntled” air, and the morale of Metro police is noticeably better. “I want my police to be happy,” he says.

Note that the police were not “defunded.” In fact, Camden put more police on the street and as Daniel Bier noted crime fell and clearance rates increased.

Camden remains a high poverty, high crime place to live but the improvement shows the importance of some fairly simple attitudinal changes–“It’s more of a protect-and-serve approach to dealing with the residents, rather than kicking down doors and locking our way out of the problem,” –and reforms such as restraining the police unions, focusing on violent and property crimes and not using policing as a revenue source.




+1 most informative blog post we have read in weeks

As a rule of thumb any action to reduce the power of trade unions is likely to be a Good Thing. Why would police unions be an exception?

I wondered if they changed the pension deal at the same time.

I'm outtahere, Camden is ruled by snitches.

I had the opposite question -- do the civilians working the desks get the same pensions?

The twin crises, the pandemic and the protests, have brought out the very best in Tabarrok. He's a libertarian I could learn to love. Well, maybe not love (he and I differ, but only at the margin). Keep up the great work.

Just more kindling to the leftists are low t. What an obnoxious girly tick- oh i love how much you are agreeing with me I could get use to this. He’s always been an almost parodic example of Jewish cosmopolitanism leftism. To the point where I’ve never even bothered to look up whether he’s Jewish or not.

Policing is properly the work of county governments and, in some loci, of special multi-county authorities. Metropolitan settlements in most parts of the country are carved up between a dozen or more municipalities and there's commonly a disjunction over the settlement between the utility of police and the tax base to pay for it. In exurban and non-metropolitan counties, the development of specialized bureaux requires aggregating forces.

I am not against Camden per se, but, as a Jewish-American businessman, I think the real problem is that it is useless to keep the most expensive military in the history of militaries if we let Russia eat our lunch anyway. I support installing American ICBMs in Moldova, Ukraine and Brazil to make it clear that we will not tolerate any attack against our allies.

I agree with the sentiment but I believe our nuclear deterrent would be better directed toward Red China and more importantly, the evil Imperial Japan.

My point is, Russian is rhe most present risk right now. It can not be allowed to bully our friends. If we deafeat Russia and rescue our alliances, we will be able to deal with China and Japan at our own good time.

I for one am against Camden per se. Who's with me?

Though to be honest, I tend to believe most of the defunding talk is based on the idea that the police simply require too large share of spending compared to the results they achieve. A point that Camden illustrates perfectly.

Yet just imagine the vapors and pearl clutching among a certain segment of the citizenry if the protesters started talking about disbanding current police forces as the first step to a much better world.

My impression is that most of the protesters advocating for "abolishing" for the police are in fact advocating for this kind of disbanding and re-creation. The problem is that "disband the police and then re-create them using a fundamentally different approach" isn't as concise as "abolish the police".

This goes to a separate issue with the left shooting themselves in the foot by using short, snappy slogans that make their aims sound more extreme than they really are, or assuming that the uninitiated understand the symbolism of certain protest actions. For example, how would someone know that "abolish the police" doesn't actually mean get rid of all police and replace them with nothing; or, without someone explaining the connection, why would someone think a football player kneeling during the national anthem is a protest against police brutality? Getting a bit off-topic here, though...

I know, I know... but without the short, snappy slogans and without the kneeling and without pushing the envelope to the opposite extreme nothing got done. So here we are. The recent history of this country is that you shift the middle by pushing the extremes. I don't say that is good or bad, but I say it is true.

There is a link to the Bloomberg funded City Labs in the original article. One of their top trending articles is one on de-funding. No, when they say they want to de-fund the police, they really want to de-fund the police.

The logic is that money is better spent on mental health, drug treatment, family intervention and doing kid's homework for them. That is more cost-effective than arresting people.

If the 20th century taught us anything other than women should stick to women's sports like foxy boxing, it is that when extremists tell you what they intend to do, you should believe them. It is right there on the box.

For real, as reported in the Guardian -

The Minneapolis city council has pledged to disband the city’s police department and replace it with a new system of public safety, a historic move that comes as calls to defund law enforcement are sweeping the US.

Speaking at a community rally on Sunday, a veto-proof majority of councilmembers declared their intent to “dismantle” and “abolish” the embattled police agency responsible for George Floyd’s death – and build an alternative model of community-led safety. The decision is a direct response to the massive protests that have taken over American cities in the last two weeks, and is a major victory for abolitionist activists who have long fought to disband police and prisons.

David French is, in the original meaning of the word, woke.

Trump is very adept at pulling masks off.

Did you really read it? Because if you read of the mistreatment of French's wife and daughter, and said "Trump is very adept at pulling masks off" ..

well, it has perhaps a different meaning than you intended.

BTW, as a bonus the French piece is very on-topic with regard to police reform.


Off topic political link. Doesn’t even pretend to address the post


Off topic trolling. Doesn’t even pretend to address the post

A murder rate of 25/100K is pretty astounding though admittedly progress of a sort from the jaw-dropping 75/100K. That's like a murder rate so high, the counter-hypothesis is the thugs ran out of other thugs to murder.

Honestly, I'd say the City of Camden needs to be disbanded. Just too many people on the left-side tail in one area. On the other hand, I'm glad they're there and I'm here.

Disbanding the city would do what exactly? The people would still be there. (Your comment sounds a little like "We need to elect a new People")

Disperse them across the State instead of concentrated in one area where their dysfunction gets cemented into the political structure. There are probably some nice neighborhoods around Princeton.

Pol Pot is smiling in Hell.

Since the actions and results in Camden has been available to police departments nationally since 2013, some changes in other police practices must have been implemented. So, is the widespread systematic "police brutality" that is being protested not the reality?

"there was little to no looting."

The soft bigotry of low expectations.

Boy, you got that right. Alexis Johnson
Horrifying scenes and aftermath from selfish LOOTERS who don’t care about this city!!!!!

.... oh wait sorry. No, these are pictures from a Kenny Chesney concert tailgate. Whoops.

And the result of that tweet? "The controversy publicly kicked off Friday when Alexis Johnson, another black Pittsburgh Post-Gazette journalist, reported that the newspaper’s management had barred her from covering local protests Monday after a tweet from her went viral. Her May 31 tweet pointed out “horrifying scenes and aftermath from selfish LOOTERS … oh wait sorry. No, these are pictures from a Kenny Chesney concert tailgate,” referring to the American country singer."

"Pittsburgh Public Safety said 60 businesses and properties were damaged during Saturday's violence. Police made 44 arrests."

post old pictures of trash in
a parking lot

Not much there worth stealing.

Couldn't agree more. Low class people act the same, regardless of their race. Only one subgroup of low class people, however, is treated like children and provided with excuses for their behavior by the liberal elite. That's the soft bigotry of low expectations that harms everyone, including the intended beneficiaries of white liberal largesse. Thanks for pointing out the double standard in how liberals view the different races for the same or similar behavior.

Good virtue signal.

Alex, you may keep you current position.

We will be watching. We are legion.

Detroit didn't see much looting either. Or South LA. Or Gary. Or where do you go to loot in these cities when most targets are tough targets. Where the owners of small stores live above the store and are often armed.

Did Philadelphia have more looting simply because they had more potentially lucrative targets? Because they were distracted by mass marches that diverted and complicated police responses. People on the streets in Camden at night tend to stand out.

Do you want to claim that every city in America that had rioting has corrupt police? That police across the country were beating peaceful protestors? That police riots were common?

If you have citywide corruption the police are often a symptom and hardly the cause. Plus in major cities, the ebb and flow of gang conflicts can have a huge impact on violent crime. The gangs in Camden aging and resolving conflicts can often have more impact than the police.

The attack on police unions seems a bit funny from a profession that demands tenure.

"Do you want to claim that every city in America that had rioting has corrupt police? That police across the country were beating peaceful protestors?"

Damn near, yes. Here is a thread of unprovoked police violence over just the last handful of days. Think of what happens when few people are recording.

They’re as corrupt as any public sector unionized employee.

There was no looting in Baltimore either but as 2015 showed us if people were minded to loot there's plenty they could loot.

"One of the few bright spots over the past week was Camden, NJ where instead of beating protesters the police joined them. Protests in Camden were peaceful and orderly and there was little to no looting."

Wait. What?
This describes the vast majority of locales and is hardly "one of the few bright spots". As usual, the problems and pathologies of the most influential cities completely obscure the diversity of realities and problems that exist throughout the country. Always remember: The NYT is no less parochial than the Springfield Times.

But, still. Thanks for the info on changes in policing in Camden as a positive example.

Alex, of course, didn't point out that the demographics of Camden the city are vastly different than Camden the county. What actually happened is that it was clear that Camden the city was incapable of governing itself, so the county took over- or was forced to take over by the state government- it is unclear what the motivation was.

For the record, Camden the city has about 1/7th of the population of the entire county. There aren't any large cities in the US for which there is a much bigger, wealthier, and whiter county government ready to take over incompetent and corrupt police forces.

I guess the alternative then would be for then state to take over the policing for those metros.

Yeah, that will be a winner, Burgos.

Same thing here in Baltimore. A city government and a county (suburban) government. The city government is run by blacks as well as the police department (black chief, lots more black officers). The county is majority white and run by whites (mostly, its slowly changing as more blacks move out of the city). It has mostly white officers.

I have no doubt that if the County took over for the city, it would be an improvement, because white people are in charge of the county. You could go beyond policing. They would run everything better.

Of course if you merged the two jurisdictions for voting purposes then the county would be black enough ruin it for both parties.


No need for this race baiting here. I'm so tired of being forced into tribes by skin color.

We are all members of a tribe, whether we like it or not.

While the article from City Lab has a lot of fluff, it looks like the police reforms were pretty basic. The Camden police had suffered from earlier bouts of anti-police feeling. They responded by going fetal. If people did not want to be policed, the police declined to police them.

Eventually the government insisted that they do their job. So they went out and arrested bad guys. And the crime rate dropped. Why is this a surprise to anyone? They might say they were not knocking down doors, but they were arresting more people and putting more police officers on the beat. Perhaps they were forcibly opening doors in a kinder, more caring and sharing way? It may be possible.

The current round of protests mean more policemen will opt for desk jobs. More policemen will call in sick. More policemen will look the other way while street crime runs riot. By all means, let's learn the lesson of Camden.

....then good. They shouldn't be on the street.

That's an interesting point of view. Chauvin did his job professionally and in line with Department policies. As a result, he has had his career destroyed and is likely to go to prison.

Just gross disloyalty from management is why the police love their Unions. Their bosses will betray them at the drop of an opinion poll.

So what do you think this will do for policing in Minneapolis? I would suggest that decent candidates will not apply to be police officers. If the management has not got your back, why would you? We know that Affirmative Action increases police beatings and killings. Because less qualified policemen have a cost.

So my prediction for the future is that Minneapolis will look more like Detroit. Decent police officers, of any or all colors, will work elsewhere. The police department will be left with the refuse. Corruption, in particular, will go up. Because why else become a police officer? But the good thing about Detroit is that no one cares about police violence there any more. The media is not interested in discussing Democratic failures.

Interesting point of view? More like banal. That was awful policing, all on tape.

You have to be pretty damaged not to see that obvious fact.

It is tragic but it is not bad policing. You have a very large, dangerous man who is on some sort of illegal narcotic. You put him down on the ground. You hold him there to stop him hurting himself and others. It happens every day.

Yes, it is terrible to look at but what is the alternative? Should arrests and confinement of the mentally ill be entirely voluntary?

He had every chance to get off his neck after a minute. Death by cop like this doesn't happen every day.

It cracks me up, how partisanship works. For hardcore partisan morons like yourself (and the other side has plenty of course), there is literally no event that can ever be blamed on their team. Nothing done by their team is ever wrong. Nothing the other team wants or needs is ever legitimate.

So when something like this happens, with not even a shred of doubt that it was a mistake (the racial angle is almost beside the point), the partisan idiot can never say "ok yeah, that was pretty bad"

And that's why partisan idiots are not worth listening to about anything. Their opinions are pre-ordained and in cases like this totally at odds with reality.

And before you come in with "leftist this and leftist that", they do it too, and I'm sure you have a list to share. But it doesn't matter, because to you, only the other side does anything wrong.

So again, you are showing us all how damaged you are. Proceed.

What the person is saying probably doesn’t match what happened in Minneapolis. But it does appear to be the story that the cops in Baltimore told themselves about Freddy Grey, and how they responded.

There is some point at which society needs to give cops the benefit of the doubt to have effective policing, especially in a country like the US where there are more
guns than people. Which is why police reform is so politically difficult. Cops very reasonably want their management and city leaders to support them, and it is understandable for them to change how they work when they feel they lack that support. So if city leaders try to change things in response to a police killing, they will look like they are taking sides against the police and hence cops will change how they work and crime will spike. If they don’t do anything, both city leaders and the cops lose the support of protestors and in the broader community. I don’t know how city leaders can find a way forward on this. Maybe their best strategy is to stay quiet for as long as possible while quietly talking to police unions about what reforms they can accept. The idea being that the unions can agree to some reforms right now, and then the city leaders can talk about how great the police in the city are for putting forward those reforms and how bad the things are that the reforms are meant to address. And then come back again a year later when there is less attention being paid to push for more reforms.

It does feel like a turning point where the unions may have lost the upper hand

He had every chance to get off his neck after a minute. Death by cop like this doesn't happen every day.

No because police men do not kill many people. He had every chance to do a lot of things but why would he? He had a very large, violent man who had resisted arrest, was on drugs, and seemed to be having some sort of psychotic episode. Why would anyone let him up off the ground until the ambulance got there? To fight again? To hurt himself or others? He was peacefully on the ground. The sensible move was to keep him there.

It cracks me up, how partisanship works. For hardcore partisan morons like yourself (and the other side has plenty of course), there is literally no event that can ever be blamed on their team.

Yeah. Something about pots and kettles. The killing of Castile was outrageous and I have said so. Repeatedly. But in this case, not so much. There is no evidence that Chauvin did anything wrong and even in painfully politically correct Minneapolis, the prosecutor let him walk.

So when something like this happens, with not even a shred of doubt that it was a mistake (the racial angle is almost beside the point), the partisan idiot can never say "ok yeah, that was pretty bad"

Where is the mistake?

They took a pulse, and he knelt for 3 more minutes what part about a dead man threatens you?

You type nonsense that has not a shred of credibility, over and over. Typing stuff doesn't make it true, sport.

The police chief who approved the police of knee to the neck should be the one arrested and put on trial.The high SES people are pushing responsibility down.

It's a good technique. You actually put weight on the point of the jaw which produces exquisite but entirely transient pain. But you can also end up kneeling on the carotid, which can dislodge plaques and impede arterial flow. So maybe Floyd stroked out (he didn't asphyxiate), but that means dissecting the brain to find out and I don't think that was done.

It's a really interesting biomechanical problem and smart cops tend to love puzzling that sort of thing out. But the tests we'd use to filter for smart cops probably would not pass judicial muster. This is why we can't have nice things.

How many MR commenters have tried to restrain a large adult man who didn't want to be restrained? If more people did martial arts at some point in their lives these debates would be more nuanced.

I’d wager that the only black guys posters like rayward encounter are male escorts/ glory hole boys. Different kind of choke hold.

And what doesn't

Trying being pithy and witty. It helps that rayward (you) are such a clearly closeted homosexual that it makes it hard to delete truth presented with verve and high testosterone.

There is no evidence of racial animus on the part of the officer. The mob assumes that based on the race of the officer. Mr. Floyd was resisting arrest by flopping on the ground repeatedly. Pain compliance is the standard police response. They did not beat him, tase him, etc. There is no evidence that the officer sought to kill or cause injury to Mr. Flyod.

I think he stayed on top of Mr. Flyod longer than needed. But I have not heard the officer explain why he did. The family's examiner said that the knee to the back could have caused the impaired breathing that Mr. Flyod suffered. The knee to the neck might not have been fatal.

The death should be investigated. But on the surface, it could just be a tragic accident. Unless you assume that all white police are racist who want to kill black people.

Could there be grounds to fire this officer? Possibly. The knee to the neck could violate procedures. His explanation for why he stayed on top for as long as he did might be found unjustified. But criminal?

It's manslaughter, which will be the charge that sticks (or he pleas down to if he's smart (not likely)).

It's obviously terrible policing, as he had ample opportunity to course correct, as did his colleagues. The crowd was trying to help too. This is so obvious that only partisan idiots can't see it.

Police officers and police chiefs all around the country have checked in to the debate by noting that even when the sort of hold used on Floyd is allowed, it is only allowed for brief intervals, with thirty seconds being the longest stated.
They had Floyd in cuffs. There was no need for any extravagant further physical restraint. All they had to do was toss him in the back of a cop car and haul him away. Even if he were totally non-cooperative and went limp, four officers should easily suffice for that maneuver.

He was 6'4 muscled. They were not going to easily pick him up. Pain compliance is used in place of beatings, tasing, etc. They had asked him about drug use when they had initial contact. They could have been worried about his mental state. In any case, they shouldn't have had him on his stomach for that long nevermind have someone on his back. The other officer who suggested they place him on his side was correct and should have been listened to. The question is what the officer has been charged with and his motive. Did it rise to the level of criminal conduct?

Not to mention the mob violence that has been unleashed.

They are going for "felony" murder so they don't have to prove intent.

It's not murder. They are charging more to get a plea to the correct charge, like they always do.

But it's the purest definition of manslaughter. And terrible policing.

Re: They were not going to easily pick him up.

There were FOUR officers there. Are you telling me four officers could not pick up a man of that size? Have we dropped our physical strength and fitness requirements that low?

What's the source for the data?

newyoiktimes.con just defunded their op- ed editor

And a majority of city councillors in Minneapolis now want to dismantle the city police department. However they haven't said what they will replace it with.

I'm slightly confused by Alex's mention of how Camden now uses a county police department. On the west coast, counties have what are called sheriffs' departments. Is a county police department different from a county sheriff's department? Or is it the same thing, and the westerners just like to call them "sheriffs"? (They have deputies too.)

Jurisdiction is obviously an issue. One easy bit is this: western states often have large areas of land that do not belong to any town nor city. They are simply unincorporated county land. So who polices that land? There's no local police department -- so the sheriff does law enforcement in those areas.

IIRC the states in New England have no unincorporated land; every acre of the state is assigned to some city or town or village or whatever.

Los Angeles County has a sheriff who is in charge of a very large law enforcement operation; I'm guessing it's smaller than the LAPD but not by much. Rather interestingly the LA County sheriff is an elected position. The incumbent usually wins, even if he's crooked or incompetent. Sherman Block was probably both of those -- and he was dead as well -- and he still almost got re-elected.

Good story, but Camden still ranks near Detroit on crime as best i can how much of the story is one of "low hanging fruit?"

It is a long time since I was in Camden. But recently a Hispanic community in Chicago avoided looting. The local Hispanic street gang, which has recently been in a bloody war with a Black street gang, took to the streets to prevent lootings and keep Blacks out of their neighborhood. Perhaps that is the future of law enforcement. We all go to armed camps and who needs the police.

In 1968 the Woodlawn neighborhood in Chicago escaped the rioting that year. How? The local street gang had been extorting local merchants for protection money. That insurance policy paid off. Of course in the long run all the merchants tired of the street taxes and customers too fearful to enter. Then arson for profit became profitable. Followed by fake land deals. Until the community looked like a war had been fought there.

So many alternatives to the police. Can hardly wait.

Indeed. Before police forces became ubiquitous, people turned to community defense--"vigilantism," as the mayor of Chicago would say. That's at the core of the origin of all the criminal syndicates Back In The Day.

Indeed before we forgot our history, we could still dimly recall this. It's laid out with exquisite clarity in the opening scene of the first Godfather movie, where the undertaker comes cap in hand to Don Corleone to ask him to give him "justice" for his daughter, because the cops won't or can't...and the Don gives him a clinic on how the system works.

It's worth watching again, and I assume it's easy enough to find on YouTube. And if they really do get rid of the cops, that's our future.

The 2013 reforms in Camden were preceded by a complete 2011 defunding of the city's state municipal aid budget by the Chris Christie administration. It was catastrophically abrupt and hit the entire city budget. That is a very different thing than a repurposing of city money that people are proposing now. Nevertheless the efficiencies and reforms in Camden today started with defunding.

A few weeks ago, republicans were in favor of municipal bankruptcies.

Now, progressives are in favor of defunding the police.

So is the argument merely about whether to go chapter 7 or chapter 11?

Simple way to solve the problem across the nation: Have the FBI honestly assemble and report all cops associated with Promise Keepers, right-wing militias, and other right-wing extremeists (a good guess would be 20% of existing cops). The rest are most likely trainable and able to serve the public decently. Stop recruiting from the military. Defund all police in communities everywhere, restructure them, and there you go: problem solved. It's the ideology of domination more than anything else that brings forth the brutality...

There is nothing more easily manipulated than statistics.

Great post, and worth further research!

yep blue model's been broken for decades -- public sector unions and progressives now finally (literally) coming to blows over the failures

unfortunately currently the follow-up plan for "disband the police" seems to be "replace them with nothing" but that should last all of a week after 911 stops working

new force should be an improvement

won't get any black fathers to stick around but it might end the myth of racist police conspiracies and address some real issues with police brutality along the way

The Economist mentioned this in passing, and pointed out also that they had something like a 95% reduction in excessive force complaints over the same period.

I would point out: "Defund" is often a tweet-sized soundbite, that might be intended to express "remove the military hardware budget"; some people are arguing for completely eliminating the police department function, other people are arguing for radical changes, ala Camden.

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