EDWIN FIGUEROA served as Chief of Police in Camden for a two-and-one-half year period ending in October of 2005, ending a 32 year term of of service with Camden's police. Born in Puerto Rico, he came to Camden at the age of three. Raised in North Camden, he attended school in the city and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School. He also graduated from Rutgers University's Camden campus and the FBI National Academy. Chief Figueroa was 57 when he turned in his badge. 

During his 32 years on the city's force, Edwin Figueroa worked in narcotics, homicide, vice and intelligence. His first job with the department was as a patrolman in North Camden. Figueroa served as deputy police chief under Robert Allenbach. He became acting police chief in April 2003 and was promoted to the permanent rank of chief in November 2004, making him the city's first Hispanic chief of police.. 

Camden Courier-Post - October 23, 2005

Camden to Miss Police Chief
Courier-Post Staff

Camden residents and city officials reacted with shock upon learning of police Chief Edwin Figueroa's upcoming retirement.

"I was surprised," City Council President Angel Fuentes said. "I was extremely satisfied with his leadership in the Camden Police Department."

"I didn't agree with everything he said, but he was always an intelligent guy, very courteous and knowledgeable and he will be missed," said Jose Delgado, a Latino community leader and former school board member.

In an interview, Figueroa said his turbulent 2 1/2-year tenure had nothing to do with his decision to leave. During his time as chief, a study named Camden the nation's most dangerous city and the police were heavily criticized for failing to find the bodies of three missing boys in the trunk of a car parked in one of the victim's backyards.

"I'm retiring really because after 25 or 30 years, it's time," the 57-year-old Mount Laurel resident said. Figueroa, the first Hispanic to lead the city's 423 police officers, has been with the department for 32 years.

He notified Mayor Gwendolyn Faison, the city's Chief Operating Officer, Randy Primas, and Camden County Prosecutor Vincent Sarrubi on Thursday of his intention to retire on Feb. 1.

"He is such a gentleman," Faison said of Figueroa. "I had to accept his resignation, but I accepted it with regret."

Figueroa, who was born in Puerto Rico and raised in North Camden, replaced Chief Robert Allenbach, who was removed after a report in early 2003 that cited widespread failures in the department. Allenbach, a 29-year veteran, had led the department since 1998.

"This is a guy that stepped in in a moment of crisis," Fuentes said. "Morale was extremely low within the police department and he has accomplished a lot in these past three years."

Figueroa recently reorganized the police department, dividing it into four districts with each captain accountable for what happens within it.

"We wanted it to be a geographical management system," Figueroa said.

He also used a crime-mapping tool called Comp-Stat to determine which neighborhoods needed extra police attention.

"We saw immediate results," Figueroa said. "We saw a double-digit reduction on the number of crimes."

So far this year, 23 homicides have been reported in Camden compared with 43 at this time last year, Figueroa said.

Even those who have been critical of Figueroa said they will be sad to see him go.

School-choice activist Angel Cordero criticized the way the police department handled the search for the three missing boys but said Camden's Hispanic community needs leaders like Figueroa.

Delgado said that Sarubbi's office, which has monitored the police department since 1998, is at least in part to blame for the police department's shortcomings.

"One of the bad things that is going to follow him is the death of those three youngsters, but all criticism of him must be taken in light of the fact that he wasn't completely in charge," Delgado said.

Faison said city officials will likely look for Figueroa's replacement within the police department. All officers who hold the rank of captain or above are eligible to apply, she said.

The decision to choose a new police chief will be up to the mayor, city council and the city's chief operating officer, Faison said.

A Cramer Hill shop owner said she hopes the next chief will be Hispanic, someone who understands the Hispanic community and its people.

"For us, it is important to have someone like Chief Figueroa, because we related to him in many aspects," said Maritza Guzman of Gomes Shoes. "After him, we will be forgotten, like we do not exist."

Cramer Hill community leader Jose Santiago doubts that will happen, saying there's racism in the police department.

"They just put him there to make it look that there is equal opportunity in this city, when there is not," Santiago said. "It is sad to see the first and only one Latino in that position leave because I don't believe there is going to be another one."

Australia Santana, owner of a restaurant in Cramer Hill, said she wished Figueroa would reconsider his decision.

"We need someone to keep the fight going to bring Camden back," Santana said.

Camden Courier-Post
October 23, 2005

L to R: Councilman Angel Fuentes, County Prosecutor Vincent Sarubbi, Chief of Police Edwin Figueroa, announcing his retirement.