CAMDEN, NJ — Camden County Police Chief Scott Thomson will retire at the end of August after a more than 25-year career in law enforcement, the county said in a statement Friday morning.
Appointed as city chief in 2008, Thomson led the department's transition from city to county control six years ago.
Assistant Chief Joseph Wysocki, who has served as Thomson's second in command since 2016, will take over the department.
Thomson is credited for helping build a nationally-recognized agency out of a struggling department, reaching a significant drop in crime through an approach of community policing.
Crime rates in Camden have fallen every year since 2012, when the city recorded its highest-ever total of 67 homicides. After cuts to almost half of the force and a shift in structure, Thomson a year later was sworn in as chief of the newly-minted county department by the freeholder board and Gov. Chris Christie. The city in 2018 saw a reduction to 22 homicides.
"Everyone who lives in, works in, or cares about the city of Camden owes Chief Thomson their thanks and deep gratitude," said County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr. in the statement. "People know that statistics only tell part of Camden's story, but the real evidence of Scott’s impact is the fact that children are back playing in Camden's streets and there's a new spirit of cooperation between the police and the community. Chief Thomson wasn't just focused on fighting crime; he was focused on rebuilding our community."
Former state Attorney General Anne Milgram said Thomson's original appointment to head the city force in 2008, at that time under state control, "was the right choice at the right time." At 36, Thomson became the youngest police chief in the history of Camden.
"He prioritized fair and just policing in Camden to rebuild broken relationships with the community and strengthen bonds with residents," Milgram said. "No one is more responsible for the city’s improvements and enhancements than Scott.”
Thomson got the start to his career in 1992 as a summer police officer in Avalon.
In 1999, he was named the Camden County Narcotic Detective of the Year. Thomson spent nearly a decade working on the HIDTA federal narcotic task force with the FBI and DEA, tracking the most violent gang and drug networks in the city.
The community model developed by Thomson, which changed the culture of law enforcement in the city, is cited several times in the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. This was officially released by President Barack Obama during a visit to Camden in 2015.
Thomson that same year was elected president of the Police Executive Research Forum, an international organization of more than 3,000 police executives. The group has been tasked with addressing the most challenging community and safety issues in the country.
Thomson credits as his mentor former Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who called Thomson "one of the brighest young police professionals in the business."
"Not just locally, but nationally,” Ramsey said. “It’s been an honor and privilege to know him and work with him."
After his retirement, Thomson will continue to work in the community. He plans to take on a role as a board member with Camden Sophisticated Sisters and volunteer with Guadalupe Family Services, as well as other non-profit organizations aimed at helping city youth.
Tawanda (Wawa) Jones, founder and executive director of the Camden Sophisticated Sisters, called it "a very bittersweet moment."
"Scott has always gone above and beyond for my organization and anytime we have needed him he’s been there,” Jones said. “I’m blessed to be part of his life and I’m blessed to have him engaged with our board and the children of Camden City.”
Thomson said that he looks forward to the next chapter of his life and staying involved in the community, something that's "in my DNA."
"The opportunity to serve the community alongside some of the noblest public servants in our vocation has been an extraordinary honor, one which truly humbles me," Thomson said.