Former Philadelphia Police Commissioner John F. Timoney said Tuesday that Camden County should not necessarily expect that its efforts to create a regionalized police force would result in cost savings.
"You're looking for optimal staffing levels to police a county like Camden County," he said at a news conference in Blackwood. "Maybe it costs more. You won't know until you look."
Timoney, who flew in from Miami, is in New Jersey for the week to consult on the county's plan to take over policing in Camden and advise officials on creating a larger regional force, a possibility at which suburban mayors have largely balked.
The county has long billed the regional force as a cost-savings measure.
But Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr. seemed to step back from that position after Timoney's news conference, saying that even without savings, the number of officers would increase, and that would be "a win."
He estimated that a county takeover in Camden would double the number of police on the streets through changes in the organization and reductions in officers' benefits. It would also add bike and walking patrols.
"We have a general idea of what we're dealing with," Cappelli said.
On Thursday, the county is expected to approve an agreement with Camden City and the state Department of Community Affairs to study the proposed takeover.
The proposed dismantling of the city force has prompted an outcry from the police unions, which face massive layoffs and a certain reduction in their members' benefits packages.
At a frenzied news conference last week, Camden Fraternal Order of Police president John Williamson warned that there was potential for chaos if the proposed county force replaced the city's veteran officers with those "not familiar with the residents, the culture of the vast mixes . . . in the city."
From the outset, county officials had said that labor law would prevent them from hiring back more than 49 percent of the current force. Otherwise, they have said, they would have to compensate officers under the current contract.
But Cappelli said Tuesday county lawyers were reviewing those statutes.
"I'm not sure the 49 percent is set in concrete," he said.
Timoney, a veteran of the New York, Philadelphia and, most recently, Miami Police Departments, also responded to critics who wondered whether his hiring was an attempt to add a marquee name to a proposal that has struggled to gain a wide following.
"Timoney was not brought in to union-bust," Timoney said. "There's been a lot of speculation that Timoney's been brought in to bless a plan that's already been decided. Nothing could be further from the truth."
The former police commissioner is being paid by the county and generally receives $1,500 a day for his consulting services.
He is scheduled to meet with police and local officials through the end of the week and review Camden's crime and policing statistics, something he was famous for doing in Philadelphia.
While a longer-term deal is still being worked out, Cappelli said he expected Timoney would return.