The Camden Police Department's officers' union filed a complaint this week with the state labor board, protesting the recent reorganization of the city's police force.
The unfair-labor-practice complaint alleges the restructuring, which puts more officers on the streets under a new crimefighting strategy, imposed major changes on the department without negotiating how those changes would affect working conditions, said Stephen Richman, an attorney for the city's Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 1.
The plan, announced by state Attorney General Anne Milgram last month, has taken officers from behind desks and returned them to regular patrols. The department's homicide and narcotics units, as well as other units, have been combined into one task force, and investigators who specialized in particular areas have been put to work on other types of cases.
As of yesterday, Camden Police Chief John Scott Thomson had not been informed that a complaint was filed, but he said he had received letters from the union expressing general displeasure with the reorganization.
"Anytime you do a massive reorganization, there are going to be processes that you have to go through to make things work," he said. "But so far, things are going well, officers are responding, and they're stepping up to the plate."
John Williamson, president of the city's FOP, said many officers are unhappy with the new structure, which has disrupted their schedules and dramatically increased their workload by requiring them to work in multiple capacities.
For instance, some detectives are assigned to work on homicides for a few days, Williamson said, then switched to patrol for the rest of the week. That means they can't follow up on investigations they started.
"I think that a majority of the patrolmen are dedicated to their jobs enough that when given the opportunity, they're going to do their job to the best of their abilities," Williamson said. "Many of them are worried they won't be able to dedicate the time needed to the job under these circumstances."
Williamson also said the reorganization would work more smoothly if the 414-member department hired more officers and phased in the changes gradually.
The complaint was sent to the Public Employment Relations Commission in Trenton on Wednesday.