Defunding the Police: True Police Reform or Just Political Smoke and Mirrors? A Look at the City of Camden, New Jersey and Its Approach to Police Reform
Year of Publication
Martin School of Public Policy and Administration
Master of Public Financial Management
Dr. Merl Hackbart
The summer of 2020 brought police brutality to the forefront of society. The deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd at the hands of police officers ignited a firestorm of social justice movements. Black Lives Matter and other social justice organizations were calling for cities around the country to defund their police departments as a strategy for police reform. This strategy was largely unprecedented, and highly controversial. There was a lack of understanding of what defunding the police actually meant, as it seemed to mean different things to different people. The subtle suggestions of defunding the police quickly turned to demands being made. This caused policy makers, local and national officials and social justice activists to have exploratory discussions of the feasibility of the defunding the police. During that exploration, it was discovered that Camden, New Jersey had defunded their police department in 2012, and many people were suggesting that the city should be used as a model for other cities with similar social ills and embattled police departments. This paper examines the Camden Police Department and its decision to defund the police. I examine the reasons, the methods and the results of the controversial decision, and use those findings to answer the questions: 1. Is defunding the police a viable strategy for police reform based on the example set by Camden, New Jersey, and 2. Should cities like Baltimore, MD consider Camden as a model to emulate. To answer these questions there are four main areas included in my research and analysis. 1. I explain the history of the relationship between the Black community and the police. 2. I explore the true meaning of defunding the police and what it aims to achieve. 3. I analyze the experience of Camden, New Jersey, who defunded their police department in 2012. 4. I determine if defunding the police should be explored by Baltimore, MD, which is a similar city to Camden, NJ.
Austin, Anitra, "Defunding the Police: True Police Reform or Just Political Smoke and Mirrors? A Look at the City of Camden, New Jersey and Its Approach to Police Reform" (2022). MPA/MPP/MPFM Capstone Projects. 347.