A Camden cop who was stabbed in the chest Saturday had been ordered to work on his day off because there were not enough officers to cover traffic control for a concert at the Susquehanna Bank Center, said John Williamson, president of Camden's Fraternal Order of Police.
The officer, a 14-year veteran of the force identified by sources as Rich Harris, 45, remained in critical but stable condition last night at Cooper University Hospital.
Harris was "ordered in" to work traffic control for country station 92.5 WXTU's 27th anniversary show, "apparently, because there weren't enough volunteers to work overtime for the concert," Williamson said.
Williamson hypothesized that happened because of the severe reduction in staffing at the department. In January, 163 cops were laid off from Camden's force, although 55 were brought back in April.
The staffing reduction also left Harris alone at his post on Broadway and Mickle Boulevard, Williamson said, although the Camden County Prosecutor's Office said another cop was assigned to work the post with Harris.
About 10:15 p.m., a fight broke out among people who had not attended the concert, said Jason Laughlin, spokesman for the prosecutor's office.
"It sort of started over nothing, just people bumping up against each other and suddenly they are fighting," Laughlin said.
Harris, who was wearing a uniform and reflective vest, tried to stop the fight by grabbing a participant, Ronald Belcher, from behind, prosecutors said.
Belcher, 28, allegedly turned around and stabbed Harris once in the left side of his chest. Williamson said Harris got on his radio and said " 'Send me an assist, I've just been stabbed.' "
Harris was rushed to the hospital by another officer in a traffic-cone truck, police said.
Belcher, of Camden, was arrested at the scene and charged with attempted murder and related offenses.
A second man, Lamont Cloud, 33, of Camden, who was fighting on the same side as Belcher during the initial brawl, was arrested for resisting arrest and obstructing justice, Laughlin said.
Williamson said that when he visited Harris at the hospital Saturday night, there "absolutely" was a concern whether the officer would live. Williamson wondered if Harris' injuries could have been prevented.
"He was by himself when he went to break up that fight," Williamson said. "He performed his duty like he was trained to do, but if we had more people he wouldn't have been out there by himself."