With a crime spike fueling calls for action, supporters of a Camden County police force are backing Camden Police Chief Scott Thomson to lead a "metro" division, which could likely be the entire force.
"There has been nothing promised, no job offered," Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr. said Wednesday. "Our thoughts going forward are, he might be the guy to lead this thing. He has the leadership skills necessary to help with this transition."
The county would have to hire Thomson, who was promoted from deputy to chief in 2008. If none of the county's other municipalities joins the force - none has committed to do so - Thomson could be in charge.
Cappelli and other county force supporters called again Wednesday for quick action on the plan. Still under discussion are work rules, salaries, and possible early retirement packages for some veteran officers.
"There is a public safety crisis in Camden," Cappelli said. "The quicker this will happen, the better it will be for residents of the city."
The city has had 48 homicides in 2011, 10 more than at this time last year. Aggravated assaults and burglaries also are up.
Cappelli said he hoped that the county, city, and state would finalize shared services agreements in January and that the force could be in place by the end of the summer.
A resolution is likely to be introduced at a special City Council meeting Tuesday, said Council President Frank Moran. Council would have to abolish the city's existing department.
Camden Mayor Dana L. Redd and Camden County Prosecutor Warren W. Faulk have called for help for the city police force, which suffered deep cutbacks this year.
Gov. Christie last week ordered more state troopers to patrol Camden, joining those already stationed there. The reinforcements would help officers battle crime, the governor said, as the local officials continue to design a county force.
Advocates say the county force - paid for by the city's budget - would double the number of officers on the city streets to 400 and save money, in part by hiring officers at lesser salaries.
Opponents, including officers and police unions, suggest that the plan would neither provide cost savings nor keep residents safer.
Former Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney, a consultant brought in by the county, has said cost savings are not guaranteed.
Fraternal Order of Police lodge president John Williamson said union officials recently resumed contract negotiations with the city.