Article from For Liberty by Norm Leahy.

Some advocates of police reform are pointing to the experience in Camden, New Jersey as a possible national model. But there’s more to the Camden story than meets the eye. 

In 2013, Camden scrapped its existing police department, which was not only ineffective at fighting crime but was riddled with corruption.

The new department was a complete reboot: different training methods, more public accountability.

And the old police union contracts were tossed.

This last item may be more important than some reformers give it credit for:

[Camden’s] Union contracts had made it all but impossible for the city to run an effective police department. Generous sick time and family-leave provisions resulted in a dysfunctional department with an extraordinary high absentee rate. 

According to the Times, “every day, nearly 30 percent of the force does not show up.” (This rate was at least triple the national average.) 

Contracts were also structured to goose officers’ salaries for simply going to work. A 10 percent bonus was given for working a night shift. A 4 percent bonus was given for working the day shift. Police received an 11 percent increase for working on “an anticrime patrol” or special tactical unit. 

Combined with generous fringe benefits, the average cost was $182,168 per officer. 

The contracts also insulated bad cops from accountability, making the old department both costly and corrupt.

Camden’s reforms aren’t without their critics. But the city took aggressive, innovative action when circumstances demanded it – up to and including holding the unions accountable.

Image Credit: By Tony Webster [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons