Working as a police officer in Camden County made Steve Sooy no longer want to work in law enforcement. The former Atlantic City Class II officer is now a Brigantine firefighter.
When Sooy started on the force in 2013, he was one of about 67 others from his academy class. Just 27 remained when he left this past September, he said.
Sooy said on his first day on duty in Camden, he was dropped off in the city from the back of a police truck and told to walk a foot patrol for 16 hours. This assignment became a regular duty, he said.
“On my days off, I would sit on the couch with ice packs on my knees because I was in so much pain,” he said.
He said if he wasn’t walking a foot patrol, he was ordered to sit in a police cruiser for hours during his shift with his overhead lights on. He said officers were not supposed to make arrests, but instead be visible in the community during directed patrols.
“We weren’t real cops. It was like being a cameraman in the show ‘Cops.’ We were like ambassadors on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, we just didn’t have the neon green coats,” he said.
Robert MacFarland was part of the first class of officers who made up the Camden County Police Department when he was hired in March 2013.
He said while he was employed in the county department, officers left Camden to go back to work in Atlantic City so they could get away from the county police model.
The 26-year-old said he took a $20,000 pay cut when he left Camden County to take a Class II officer position in Stafford Township, Ocean County.
“I knew it would be worth it in the long run to take that cut,” he said.
The starting salary when MacFarland was hired in Camden County in 2013 was $47,177. The starting salary for a full-time patrolman in Stafford Township is $35,000.
He said when he worked the streets in Camden, he still learned valuable lessons for his career.
“Obviously, street experience is something you can’t teach,” he said. “I learned to never take anything for granted and to not be complacent on this job.”
He worked the 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift, and many times he and other officers would be kept on duty in the city without being asked.
In Stafford, MacFarland said, the department wants officers to be proactive in the community, and the morale is vastly better.