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In Camden, New Jersey

May 19, 2015

Yesterday and today I’m in Camden, New Jersey, working on a data task force for the Camden County Police Department. Yesterday we learned about how they currently run their systems and today we are hopefully going to address how they will do so in the future.

I got to see President Obama when he came here yesterday and talked about the Camden Police as a role model for the nation. The New York Times covered his visit as well and wasn’t so sure, given its record of accusations of excessive force by the police.

The way they collect those records and, to some extent, the way they respond to complaints are part of what I’m helping them think about, so I’ll know more soon, and I will be sure to write about it.

The Chief of Police, Scott Thomson, certainly says the right things. You can get to know him a bit through this interview, but I was struck yesterday by his emphasis on morality and community trust over the culture of an occupying force. Even so, Camden is a tough place, and not everything suddenly gets better even with a police force doing their best.

Another way of saying that is that, if we take the problems with the police away from a troubled city, you expose a whole pile of other problems.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. John Mosman
    May 19, 2015 at 11:38 am

    I think it is great you are working with the Camden PD. Just want to let you know.


  2. MikeM
    May 19, 2015 at 5:03 pm

    Talk to the people who vet the records, and to the ones who furnish the records as well, to get an idea of what pressures may be brought to bear on line officers with regard to what is recorded. Computer-based systems like Compstat can be used to find problem areas, but more often than not they’re used to bludgeon middle management to reduce crime numbers, not to determine crime patterns.


  3. msobel
    May 20, 2015 at 1:35 am

    If you can share some of your findings afterward, I would appreciate. I am a firm believe that the kind of notation you use, or data structures, influence the kind of solutions you come up with, like analytic geometry making the calculus solvable.


  4. Ion Freeman
    May 20, 2015 at 8:15 am

    “[I]f we take the problems with the police away from a troubled city, you expose a whole pile of other problems.” Well… of course. Changing how policing works can make people’s lives materially better, but it’s not like the police were dropped into idylls of human harmony and started making trouble. I’m a Rutgers Camden graduate, and while I certainly noticed that five different police forces were monitoring my neighborhood, there seemed to be other issues — notably the lack of industry (Campbells’ Soup! And RCA still had a vestige when I was there) — closer to the core.


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