Last week, frustrated residents of Camden, New Jersey held a town hall to discuss issues of police reform. On the agenda was a conversation about so-called “community policing” that’s touted as part of the success story of turning around the Camden PD in recent years. Unfortunately for the organizers, there was an impression of the cops not being terribly “community-minded” because there were no representatives of the police department present. This elicited even more frustration from the organizers, who said that community policing does not exist in their city and it’s “not doing well.”

This isn’t a situation where the residents are complaining about the police being ineffective in reducing crime rates. The force in Camden has actually done a fairly admirable job compared to how things used to be. The activists instead seem more annoyed by the way the media is portraying the work of the Camden PD as some sort of model of success. They say that sort of “community policing” isn’t really happening and much of it is just business as usual. (CBS Philadelphia)

The City of Camden has emerged as a national case study on police reform. But frustrated residents say they are not being included in discussions on how to improve community policing.

Those who came out to Thursday night’s town hall event say they’re tired of the way the Camden County Police Department is being portrayed and it’s time to change the narrative.

Frustrated and feeling silenced — that’s why organizers of a Camden community town hall say they wanted to have an open dialogue about community policing.

“It took Camden residents to see so many different events that have happened in their city to know that community policing does not exist and it’s not doing well in the City of Camden,” organizers Ronsha Dickerson said.

Keep in mind that Camden, New Jersey was long considered one of the most dangerous places in the United States. (Or much of the world, for that matter.) But that began changing several years ago. We discussed this when I pointed out the fallacy of much of the MSM’s coverage of Camden as a city that “scrapped their police department” and went on to be just fine. Of course, the reality is that Camden only scrapped their PD on paper for a couple of hours, brought in new management and hired back a majority of their existing officers

Things definitely did improve after that, with crime rates falling significantly. But the popular claim that it’s working because the cops are nicely integrated with the residents of the higher-crime neighborhoods without suspicions of heavily policing communities of color doesn’t hold up under closer examination. Or at least that the assertion of one of the organizers of last week’s meeting, Ronsha Dickerson. Another attendee at the meeting insists that the police “need to know that a brother is in front of his own house and not every Black man in his car is trying to distribute dangerous controlled substances.”

For their part, the Police Department says they informed the group that no officers would be able to attend because of the COVID-19 pandemic and rules about public gatherings. They also claim to have offered to attend the meeting virtually via Zoom, but they were turned down.

So it sounds like there has been significant police reform in Camden over the past several years and progress has been made. But it’s not all the sort of progress that some of the residents are looking for.