Author Archive: Stephen Danley

After “investment,” Camden neighborhoods struggle to get their share of resources

In Camden, 2014 was a year of change. The education system was fully under state control, the new metro police force was ramped up, and a bevy of tax breaks were handed out to corporations for moving to Camden. Through all this change, there is one critical question that is being asked more and more often by Camden’s residents and advocates. Who benefits from all these changes? If 2014 was a year of change, 2015 is the year Camden needs to fight to get its fair share of the resources designed to help the city.  

Memphis: Don’t listen to the press, listen to the officers who were thrown out of Camden

This guest post was written by a former Camden police officer and was passed along to me by the NAACP. It is cross posted from the Local Knowledge blog. The video and news article that it responds to was titled: “What Memphis can learn from the war on crime in Camden.”:

The Truth

Memphis: Want the truth? Don’t listen to the press, listen to the officers who were thrown out of Camden.

– In Camden, the department went from an “older, diverse” department (roughly 1/3 white, 1/3 black, and 1/3 Hispanic) to 60% white and less minorities.

– Civil Service rules (you know the ones where officers take a state test for promotions) were suspended and the chief was able to promote his friends several ranks up the ladder, better who you know than what you know.

– Crime was driven up prior to the county takeover. Notice they will only compare the Metro stats to the high 2 years just prior. How did this happen? Well, they assigned double, even triple, the number of officers on their days off to patrol empty parking lots for concerts that were not starting until hours later. Thus costing the city the difference.

– Overtime was driven through the roof. Officers spouses actually complained at a City Council meeting that there was too much unwanted/unneeded overtime being forced on an already stretched-thin force. No time off to de-stress.

– Crime numbers are artificially and illegally being changed.

– Burglaries are being changed to thefts (theft from auto in many cases) or trespassing (burglaries to buildings).

– Aggravated assaults are being changed to simple assaults. (this is documented in a Philadelphia Inquirer article by Michael Boren.)


Camden Schools Remade in the Image of “No Excuses” Charters

Cross-posted from the Local Knowledge Blog. Promoted by Rosi.

There has been a lot of attention, and rightfully so, to the opening and approval of new “No Excuses” charters in Camden. These schools have questionable pedagogical practices, and a putrid record of educating black males. But, as of the latest numbers of new “No Excuses” school attendees were only in the low 500s. Plenty of students remain in traditional public schools, and those schools are being forcibly remade in the image of charters. They are adopting “No Excuses”-style discipline, pedagogical methods, and even using assessment tests from Uncommon’s North Star Academy in Newark.

It Takes an Assemblyman being Wronged to get Police Cameras Right

This is cross-posted from the Local Knowledge Blog. Promoted by Rosi.

Over the past few weeks I’ve tried to display some balance amidst the celebratory coverage of the Camden County Police Force. I hope it is possible to celebrate the drop in crime while also acknowledging the politics played with both the department and its numbers over the past few years. More importantly, I think it’s critical to highlight the voices of those, particularly racial minorities, who are having a different experience with the police force. Part of the reason that is critical is that the troubles of Ferguson were underpinned by a lack of voice for that same population. That’s why I found the recent rush to legislation over crime cameras to be such good news, but also indicative of the difficultly we have in listening to vulnerable communities.

Community Voice in Camden: Teachers Missing from Our Schools

The community fight against school privatization in Camden leaps forward. Promoted by Rosi, cross-posted from the Local Knowledge Blog. The speech below was given by Camden parent Carmen Crespo at a press conference last week announcing a lawsuit against the Camden School District:

It is an honor to be here today speaking on behalf of the thousands of parents of school age children in this city who, until very recently, haven’t had their voices heard. Until just a few months ago, I, like most Camden parents, was unaware of the changes coming into our district or how they would affect my children and my neighbor’s children. I quickly learned that our school district was supposedly in a funding deficit and would be laying off many teachers and support staff to cover this supposed deficit.

Missing-PieceI also learned that applications were filed to open new Renaissance schools, using the district funding that Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard claimed that we did not have. The more I learned, the more I felt the need to advocate on behalf of our children and of the teachers and staff who were being taken away from us. Those teachers love our children and have dedicated their lives to educating them so that they can grow up and be successful adults.

No, Camden is not the “un-Ferguson”

This post is cross-posted from the Local Knowledge Blog

Thank you, Stephen, for posting this here. Promoted by Rosi.

It’s always good to see positive news about Camden, so I was tentatively excited to see Kate Zernike’s New York Times article “Camden Turns Around with a New Police Force.” What I saw made me nervous. The New York Times piece shared good news, but without appropriate context or history, and it was framed with a cringe-worthy comparison to Ferguson, while simultaneously, and ironically, discrediting local NAACP leadership. This one tweet, retweeted by Kate Zernike, sums it up by calling Camden the “un-Ferguson.” But it’s not. Camden’s story is more complex than that, and it faces many of the systemic challenges around police treatment of African-Americans and other minorities that simmered under the surface in Ferguson.

Triage Until Change: Keeping Schools Open in Camden

This article is cross-posted from the Local Knowledge Blog. Promoted by Rosi.

Last night’s “What is Really Happening in Camden Schools?”  meeting was largely an information session for parents seeking answers. The Education Law Center’s David Sciarra and Rutgers Professor Julia Sass Rubin laid out the legal and historical background of Camden’s movement towards Renaissance schools. Other speakers, like Keith Benson, spoke on familiar themes, such as the intersection of gentrification and Charter schools. And parents had the opportunity to ask questions (although I wish dialogue with parents would have come earlier). I’m getting my hands  on those presentations, and hope to have additional coverage and even guest posts here. But I wanted to share my big takeaway; a battle over attendance is brewing in Camden.

Photo by April Saul in her collection Camden, NJ: A Spirit Invincible. Check out her facebook page.

Camden: Who Catches that Money We Throw at Cities?

There’s some damn fine writing some of our new friends have been posting on Camden the last couple weeks. Spectacular coverage. Including this one – – Promoted by Rosi.

This post is cross-posted from the Local Knowledge Blog.

I sat down with a young man last week who was trying to learn more about Camden. Despite not living, working or being from the city, he’d taken and interest and was becoming more involved. Almost the first words out of his mouth were, “we’ve seen that throwing money at cities doesn’t solve anything.” But have we? It’s an important question, particularly as a $260 million corporate was just approved to bring Holtec to Camden, only weeks after over $80 million went to the 76ers for a practice facility. This is one of the unintended consequences of huge corporate subsidies; the poor get blamed when the subsidies don’t raise living standards across the city.

76ers to Camden: the South Jersey Strategy

promoted by Rosi

Next City pegs the price of each job coming to Camden with the Sixers practice facility at $1.6 million. New Jersey Policy Perspective’s president, Gordon MacInnes places the number at $328,000. says that there will be $76.6 in “direct and indirect taxes”, including “spillover effects,” outstripped by the $82 million in state grants. And Tom Knoche says: “What does this mean for the residents of Camden? Not much.” But this is the strategy. Strong political presence in Trenton means access to state dollars. From the perspective of local actors, these are free dollars. Unfortunately, these free dollars come linked to inefficient policy.

Giving Chris Christie Credit for Camden Requires a Selective Memory

This post is shared from the Local Knowledge Blog. Promoted by Rosi.

Over the past week, Gov. Christie has been in Camden twice, once to tout the new police force as a policy model, and once in support of education changes. In doing so, there has been a lot of numbers thrown around regarding the new police force, some optimistic, and indicate the force is downgrading arrests. But none of these pieces has pointed out the obvious; Camden faced a violent crime epidemic in part because of layoffs caused by municipal cuts by Gov. Christie. The Governor is now taking credit for numbers normalizing back to the historical rates that existed before his catastrophic cuts.