This is good:
Every few months, the police chief here asks which officers wrote the most tickets.
Elsewhere, this might lead to praise, but in Camden -- where 40 percent of residents live below the poverty line, the murder rate compares to that of El Salvador and one of the most interesting experiments in American policing is underway -- Chief J. Scott Thomson sees aggressive ticket writing as a sign that his officers don't get the new program.
"Handing a $250 ticket to someone who is making $13,000 a year" -- around the per capita income in the city -- "can be life altering," Chief Thomson said in an interview last year, noting that it can make car insurance unaffordable or result in the loss of a driver's license. "Taxing a poor community is not going to make it stronger."
An early sign that Chief Thomson's message was taking hold among his officers came on Nov. 9, 2015, when a 48-year-old man walked into a Crown Fried Chicken, behaved menacingly toward customers and employees, brandished a steak knife and left. Outside, officers ordered him to drop the knife, according to video from police body cameras. But the man began walking away, slashing the knife through the air as he went.
For several minutes, the officers formed a cordon around the man and walked with him for a few blocks, trying to clear traffic ahead and periodically instructing him to drop the knife.
The crisis ended when the man did just that. Had the episode taken place a year before, "we would more than likely have deployed deadly force and moved on," Chief Thomson said.