Council rejects proposal for police residency requirement


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Photo by Jennifer Miguel-HelLman |

Councilmember Elizabeth Garlatti and City Administrator Thomas Loughlin listen to resident opinions on the police ordinance Wednesday night at City Hall.


Due to state regulation limits, the New Brunswick City Council said Wednesday that there could not be a residency requirement for hires to the New Brunswick Police Department.

City residents advocated a police residency requirement after the Sept. 22 Barry Deloatch shooting, which would require police applicants to live in the community for three years before they could be hired.

Deloatch, a New Brunswick resident, was fatally shot after an altercation with two NBPD officers.

At the council meeting in City Hall on Bayard Street, City Attorney William Hamilton said the council could not ordain the three-year mandate because of existing state law. But the city chooses officers from a prioritized residency list, he said.

“You start from city residents, county residents, state residents and everybody else,” Hamilton said. “You have to follow that procedure. You don’t jump from one to the other. You have to [hire from] the city first and then the county and so on.”

Hamilton said there are exceptions to this rule, such as children of law enforcement officers who were killed in the line of duty.

Councilmember Elizabeth Garlatti said although the proposal from residents cannot be passed, councilmembers have mulled over the issue.

“We’ve had a discussion regarding how we can insure greater community involvement by our public safety employees,” she said. “That is a key element to keeping us safe.”

Garlatti said the community should propose a resolution that encourages state legislature to look at how the city can incorporate residency into the hiring of public safety employees.

“That would support this idea that being part of the community is more than just working there,” she said.

The council passed a resolution to accept a $1,682,807 federal stimulus for hiring police officers in the department. The funding comes from a grant for hiring seven officers, said City Administrator Thomas Loughlin.

New Brunswick plans to hire the seven officers in the next six to 12 months, said Bill Bray, city spokesman. The money allows them to pay for their salaries and benefits for the next three years.

Community organizer and University alumnus Charlie Kratovil asked the council to table the resolution until there has been a change in the residency requirement, but City Council President Robert Recine refused.

“I’m not going to table this because this is grant money, and I’m not going to lose out on grant money,” Recine said.

Kratovil also presented the council with resolutions regarding the NBPD, including one that would force all newly hired police to come before the council and members of the public to answer questions from the community.

Amy Braunstein, Democratic committeewoman for Ward 5, District 2, said new officers should answer peoples’ questions before they are given the authority to use force.

“The police department is around the corner. It’s not like it’s a huge burden for them to come down and submit to questions when they are given a sacred and powerful duty by the City of New Brunswick,” she said.

The council did not pass the proposed resolutions because the city council and city attorney had to review them further, Recine said.

Newly hired officers undergo a one-year working-test period, but it does not mandate a residency requirement, Loughlin said.

But the department does push all its hires to reside in the city for the length of the working-test period, Bray said.

“All police officer’s hired under Mayor Cahill’s administration have conformed to the rule. No one has broken the gentlemen’s agreement,” he said.

New Jersey has instituted a residency requirement for anybody who is employed in the state at a public level as of September, Garlatti said.

“That suggests to me that there is a greater appetite for this kind of requirement,” she said.

She also said the residency requirement is something the city should keep pushing for.

“If you are paid by New Jersey taxpayer tax dollars, then you should probably live in New Jersey and expend your funds to advance the economic developments of New Jersey,” Garlatti said.

 

Correction: In a previous version of this article, City Attorney William Hamilton was misquoted on the exception to the rule of hiring officers from a prioritized residency list. The exception is for children of law enforcement officers who were killed in the line of duty.


By Tabish Talib

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