Camden's plan to lay off all its uniformed police officers and replace them with a new, county-run force has received approval from the New Jersey Civil Service Commission, according to Mayor Dana L. Redd's office.
The mayor also announced this afternoon that the layoff of more than 250 officers is now set for April 30.
"We cannot sit back and allow our children and families to experience another 2012. We have an opportunity to improve public safety by bringing back community policing and adding more law enforcement officers to patrol our neighborhoods and business corridors," she said in a statement.
The ruling by the commission, which oversees the hiring of government workers in New Jersey, is a critical step in creating the new force, which officials say will increase the number of police in Camden to about 400 officers - at the same cost as the current department - by reducing compensation packages.
Camden, routinely ranked as one of the country's most violent cities, recorded 67 homicides last year, a record for the former manufacturing center.
John Williamson, president of the Camden police officer's union, said he was notified of the ruling Monday and planned to file an appeal with the state appellate court shortly.
"We just came off a record homicide year. You're talking about laying off the entire police department without knowing how many are going to return," he said. "It's in the lawyers' hands now."
The state NAACP, which has criticized the plan to replace the city's police force as "anti-minority," will join the police union in the appeal, Williamson said.
As of Nov. 30 Camden County had received 800 applications from persons interested in joining the new force, officials said. About 100 of those applications had come from officers on the current force.