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May 14, 2015

President Obama to visit Camden to hear about community policing

President Obama will visit Camden on Monday, the White House has confirmed.

The president will visit the city to meet with law enforcement officers and young people in the community. He will learn firsthand about the efforts of the Camden County Police Department to establish trust between its officers and the community.

Camden was recently designated as a "Promise Zone," which leverages federal grants to increase economic opportunity, reduce crime and improve public health, among other priorities identified by the community. The president will talk about how such partnerships and community investments are a crucial part of creating opportunity for all Americans.

The president will tour the Real-Time Tactical Operational Intelligence Center at the Camden County Police Department Headquarters and deliver remarks at the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center.

In December, Obama chartered the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing to identify best practices and make recommendations on "how policing practices can promote effective crime reduction while building public trust."

The task force was a response to several incidents of unarmed black men killed by police in Ferguson, Mo.; New York City; Cleveland and elsewhere. It is co-chaired by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey and Laurie Robinson, professor at George Mason University and former director of the University of Pennsylvania Criminology Department's Master of Science program.

Scott Thomson, Camden County police chief, has focused much of his department's energies on community policing. He testified before the task force in February in Phoenix.

"The starting point is on a city street corner with a respectful interaction between a police officer on the beat and a member of that community," Thomson told the panel, according to a report"It is the most effective prescription to put us on the path of healing with our current affliction. It is how one of the country's most unhealthy cities rapidly reversed course and with each passing day has a more promising prognosis.

"Community policing is not an option, it's an affirmative obligation," Thomson said, continuing, "the only way to significantly reduce fear, crime and disorder and then sustain these gains is to leverage the greatest force multiplier; the people of the community."

Thomson said Friday that it is an "honor and privilege" to have Obama take an interest in Camden. 

“His presence will make an indelible mark on an important and historical period of time because of the efforts of our police officers," Thomson wrote in an email. "This organization has made a significant impact in a short period of time through a thoughtful community policing strategy, based on human contact, dialogue and engagement. Furthermore, our mission is to reduce fear, crime and disorder and then sustain these gains by leveraging the greatest force multiplier; the residents of Camden."

Obama also recognized community policing efforts in the city in late February by inviting Camden County police Officer Virginia Matias to join five other law enforcement officials from around the country to the White House for a sit-down to discuss its positive impact nationwide.

Obama has visited Camden and South Jersey several times since his election to the White House.

In December, the president made a holiday visit to thank troops at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and was at the base in 2012 during the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.