Cops in Camden have argued that Camden County is only pursuing a county takeover of the police force in order to break the unions, as my colleague Darran Simon noted out today. To that end, at a press conference today where Gov. Christie announced a major shake-up of his senior staff (his chief of staff and chief counsel are being replaced), I asked why he thought there'd be cost savings by going to the county force model.
Christie said his staff is helping with the takeover. He is confident it will happen because all the significant South Jersey political players are behind it. And to make up for shortfalls in policing due to layoffs, state police will remain in the city until the county creates its force. Here's the exchange:
My Question: How do you know that it will save money? That's a question that's out there. The Timoney report didn't indicate it definitely would. Is it because [police] salaries are definitely going to be lowered? Is it because they're going to pay more toward their benefits? Is that what it comes down to, changing the contracts?
Christie's Answer: Yes. Listen, because, the mayor in Camden has been seeking changes in the police contracts for as long as I've been here, and the police unions have refused to do so. And so as a result if we need to move to another model that accomplishes at least equal or better policing at a lower cost, I think that's what they're taxpayers expect us to do. I think the mayor was willing to do that within the framework of the current police department, (but) they have shown their willingness to have half of their members laid off rather than compromise.
Listen, that's a spot where there is no boulevard (of compromise) to drive on, Matt, and when there is no boulevard to drive on because the folks insist on getting everything they want, which is what the police unions in Camden insisted on, then you have to find a detour. And that's what we've done.