Residency policy will improve community relations
I am writing today regarding the Oct. 27 editorial in The Daily Targum titled, “Amendment could promote corruption.”
While I thank the editorial board for recognizing the potential of a residency requirement to improve relations between police officers and community members, I take issue with the argument that by encouraging officers to live in the city, this could somehow lead to more corruption. It is simply irrational and a very misleading way to frame the debate over police residency requirements.
My proposal to the New Brunswick City Council is to require new officers to live in New Brunswick for three years before they join the force. In accordance with state law, once they are hired, they are free to relocate wherever they choose. This proposal would not affect officers currently on the force, but would ensure that all new hires have significant experience living in the community they will police, before they are given a badge and a gun.
It is absurd to say this proposal has the potential to “promote” corruption. By the same token, the Targum could argue that a mayor would be less prone to corruption if he or she were to live outside the city. Would we be better served by an out-of-town mayor? The same type of misleading argument was used against a 2009 proposal for a ward-based city government, falsely associating the improved community connectivity, which would result from the change, with supposedly inevitable graft.
The new residency policy I proposed would indeed be an improvement over the current rules, which require officers to be city residents for only the brief period between their civil service test and their hiring. This allows recruits to more easily fudge where they actually live to meet the requirement and get away with not living in the city at all before joining the force. Make no mistake: The status quo in New Brunswick is corrupt, and something needs to change.
In addition to improving relations between police and the community, this law would likely result in more officers choosing to live in the city after they join the force. New Brunswick is a place that grows on you and, after three years in the community, many officers will stay and hopefully raise families here. Their presence in the neighborhoods will constantly deter crime, and they will spend their hard-earned money here in New Brunswick instead of the surrounding suburbs.
My proposal will not solve all of our problems, and I’m willing to modify it to reflect constructive input from all sectors of the community, including the Targum editorial board. In the future, please constructively criticize and offer alternative solutions that address your criticisms, especially when discussing a proposal that you readily admit has potential to do good for the community and move us forward as a city.
Charlie Kratovil is a Class of 2009 University graduate and New Brunswick community organizer.