CAMDEN, N.J. – Some firefighters turned in their helmets and police officers their badges Tuesday as part of deep municipal layoffs destined to further erode the quality of life in Camden, already one of the nation's most impoverished and crime-ridden cities.
About 335 workers, representing one-sixth of the local government work force, lost their jobs, according to Mayor Dana Redd. It was worst in the public safety departments, where nearly half the police force and close to one-third of the city's firefighters were laid off.
Laid-off firefighters walked eight blocks together from the police union hall to Fire Department headquarters, snaking past City Hall, then lined up their helmets in front of the building, picked them back up and started to turn them in along with their other gear.
"It's one of the worst days in the history of Camden," said Ken Chambers, president of the firefighters union.
Redd blamed the public safety employee cuts on their unions, saying they have not been willing to make job-saving concessions or accept the reality that the state government will no longer bail out the city as it has for the past two generations.
"Instead of protecting and serving the city, the residents of Camden, they're choosing to protect their high salaries," she said.
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