As reported by NJ.com, police and fire union officials vehemently oppose a proposal that would allow towns to require their ne recruits to live within their borders, with one Newark union leader saying relations between the community and cops has turned toxic. “You talk about the community. Right now the community hates us. Everything you see on social media. Everything you see in the media. The community hates the police,” James Stewart, a Newark detective and president of its chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, told the State Assembly Judiciary Committee. “And you want to put us right in the middle of that with our families? I think it’s outrageous.”
At issue is legislation the Committee was considering, pushed by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, that would allow municipalities to require new police and firefighters to live in town for their first five years on the job. Baraka sees the bill as part of a community building initiative, according to the bill’s sponsor, and Newark officials said it would improve relations between residents and the police force. The Committee approved the bill by a vote of 3-2.
New police and fire recruits in Newark and other New Jersey municipalities are required under the civil service system to live in town during their first year, which is a probationary period. Moreover, a New Jersey law effective since 2011 requires all new public workers to live within the State.
Stewart said police officers have been taking too much criticism from politicians and the media. “We’ve been blamed for everything: The high taxes in the State, the pension problems. Everything’s been laid at our feet. Fast forward a couple more years, the incident in Ferguson and Staten Island have put a target on our backs like never before. Suddenly we have become the bad guys. Everybody is against us.”
While Stewart’s testimony was the most impassioned, he was not alone in opposition to the bill. Pat Colligan, president of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, wondered if the State’s wealthiest towns would enact the residency requirement. “I’ll let the officers in Alpine and Far Hills know to start looking for sheds, because if they opt in, quite frankly, you’re not going to find a house for less than $800,000 or $900,000 is some of these communities,” he said. Dominick Marino, president of the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey, questioned how the residency requirement would apply to North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue, which incorporates five Hudson County towns.
This was the first legislative step for the measure, which would still need to pass the full Assembly and State Senate before reaching Governor Chris Christie’s desk. Please continue to check this blog periodically regarding the status of the bill.