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Camden Police Department welcomes public input

Posted: April 28, 2014 6:44 a.m.
Updated: April 28, 2014 6:44 a.m.

A number of residents from Camden and the surrounding area got to know the Camden Police Department (CPD) a little better Thursday night. CPD Chief Joe Floyd said he wanted a forum held inside Camden City Hall to learn the public’s concerns and what suggestions residents have for better policing.

The program began with CPD senior officers introducing themselves and briefly explaining their roles in the department. Floyd then explained “the four influences” that manage the department. He said he has communicated these same philosophies to his offices during each of his 16 years as chief.

The first is the CPD mission statement “to preserve life, protect property, reduce fear, maintain human rights and promote individual responsibility in the community.”

Floyd said the second influence is made up of philosophies the department follows. They include: public trust is the key to improving any police department; police officers must always be accountable for their actions and not be offended that they are asked to do so; never let personal feelings interfere with your job; don’t let anger affect your job performance; writing tickets is not a mission of the department, but a tool to help accomplish the mission; always try to help people; police officers have the right to take away a person’s freedom but never their dignity; and that police should not only avoid violating someone’s rights, but should also protect everyone’s rights.

“All citizens are equally important. These are our philosophies and every officer that works for me has had a lot of time being exposed to them,” Floyd said. “I don’t know a single one who has worked for me that went through the promotion process that if they didn’t know and understand every one of those things, they weren’t even considered for promotion.”
Floyd said the third influence is the department’s policies and procedures, which are rigid but not totally inflexible depending on the circumstances. The fourth influence is the department’s value system. He said values can sometimes override policies and procedures if an officer feels it’s the right thing to do.

“A value is a sense of right and wrong. If it’s something you wouldn’t tell your Mama about, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. Our value system says you will follow policy and procedure, our rule book, up until the time it’s not the right thing to do,” he said. “If we have a policy that says you cannot put a civilian in your car unless they are under arrest and you stop in a lightning storm and there’s a lady on the side of the road and the lightning’s popping and flashing and she’s got two flat tires because she ran over something, are you going to make her stand outside or are you going to let her get into your car? The value system says you violate policy and take care of that person.”

Thirty-one CPD officers perform a variety of duties, including patrolling the streets, conducting investigations and working in schools.

“We run a 24-hour operation. Thirty-one officers sounds like a lot, but when you break it down that means you have four officers on the road 24 hours a day,” Floyd said. “When we want to do extra things; that results in paying overtime. When we have a problem in a neighborhood, we have one officer that may be assigned to five neighborhoods. We have to pay overtime to get additional officers on their days off to pay special attention to particular parts of town.”

Floyd said police officers are human and sometimes make mistakes, but he expects CPD personnel to admit mistakes and learn from them. He also said the department could not do an effective job without input from the public.

“Law enforcement is not a job we can just go out and do without the help of the public. We can get a little bit done, but we can’t get am lot done without the public’s help,” he said. “You know who solves the most cases in investigations? The public.”

The chief presented crime statistics for 2013. The department keeps detailed records on every traffic stop, incident call and investigation, including officer’s actions like physically restraining a suspect, using pepper spray or a Taser, or drawing or firing their weapon. Statistics are also kept on traffic violations and accidents, which allows the department to focus on areas that need the most attention.

Floyd and his officers fielded a series of questions from the audience, ranging from concerns about speeders in their neighborhoods to late-night activity in a local park. Some problems are outside the control of the CPD but the officers were ready to provide information to the residents on where they could direct their concerns.

Floyd said another public forum will be scheduled in the coming weeks and will be announced soon.

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